Ok so maybe there’s not any dancing (sorry/not-sorry) but it was definitely extended as long as possible.
My old city-garden was heavily tomato-centric due to limited time and space. I grew other stuff but my main focus was always the one thing that is so superior to its store-bought version, my favorite food: fresh tomatoes. Once again I brought my old habits with me to my new space and I’m still learning to let them go. I used to say “there’s no such thing as too many tomatoes” but I may have learned my lesson this year.
I got a way-too-late start on my tomatoes this year. Most normal gardeners are wrapping up in early October but my tomato plants were just hitting their peak: I was literally popping cherry tomatoes in my mouth all day long and we were feasting on Caprese salads for dinner almost every night. It was kind of heaven.
My October garden was chaotic, messy, and prolific. But when several days of hard-frost were predicted by the 3rd week, it was time to think about extending the growing season indoors.
I’ve had good luck in the past ripening end-of-season tomatoes in paper bags loosely folded shut: the bag allows some air flow, and the ethylene gas they release is trapped in the bag and causes them to ripen more quickly. Check them daily for soft spots or mold which will spread quickly to the rest of the fruit in the bag leaving you with a yucky wet mess.
I needed a new system to keep track of this many tomatoes. I wanted the fruit to get whatever nutrients and moisture they could from their vines, so for 2 days straight I harvested 2-3′ long vines, tying them together in bundles and hanging them from sloppy makeshift nails and wires in my kitchen.
The vines dried out within a couple days but the fruit continued to ripen slowly for another month. As the vines dried they shrunk a lot. I’d bundled a few with rubber bands but most were held together with twine and wire, which I had to scramble to tighten after the vines dried out to keep them from slipping out of their bundles.
Even after the vines were dried up, they benefited from the air flow and I didn’t lose too many to rot or mold. Every few days I’d roast or freeze another small batch, and had to stay on top of that because once they ripened they would soften way faster than summer tomatoes.
As the weeks passed they became less flavorful, but they were still far superior to grocery store tomatoes.
By November 20th they were done, and so was I.
We savored the last fresh tasty one and I processed and froze the last batch.
I never really counted how many quart bags of fresh, roasted, and smoked tomatoes I ended up with, but every time I go get a bag out of the freezer I feel sort of rich. I love how easy the bags are: they thaw super fast and are so easy to add to a dish.
I’m starting to plan this year’s garden and am trying hard to focus on a little more diversity and – yes – a few less tomatoes. What are you excited about growing this year?