the great green tomato experiment

2014 has been the year of the tomato at Next Gen House. We’ve had so many that we were able to freeze 25 pounds, can them whole and make salsa, donate at least 40 pounds to our local food bank, and give away about a million to anyone who would take them.

In my last garden update, I mentioned that it was coming time to finish up with the garden, since the temperatures have been low at night and the first frost feels imminent. The remaining tomatoes are all green and they aren’t changing color outside anymore. Plus, it’s mid-October and I’m over the tomatoes.

So rather than just attack the gardens and take out all the plants or just let them die as-is, I went out this weekend and harvested all the rest of the tomatoes. We still had, well, rather a lot.

Two Target bags and a box worth of regular tomatoes, of different varieties.

green tomatoes

On top of that, a mountain of cherry tomatoes.

cherry tomatoes resized

And these are just the fully green ones. I also had another large Target bag of ripe and semi-ripe ones, plus almost two quarts of ripe cherry tomatoes. I really wish I had kept track this year of how much our garden produced, because I’d imagine we made our money back 100 times over in the monetary value of what we grew.

Anyway. I brought the green tomatoes inside and decided to make use of the containers I had on hand for root cellaring and try an experiment that Mark’s aunt once mentioned to us. She told us that his grandfather used to pick green tomatoes at the end of the season, layer them between newspaper, and store them in the cool basement where they’d ripen slowly and he could enjoy fresh tomatoes beyond the warm days of summer. That’s about all the instruction she could give on it, so I went to the internet.

Which, as is often the case, was a mistake. I found a ton of conflicting advice – wrap large tomatoes individually or layer them? Let them touch others or no? Remove green tops or no? Ideal temperatures and humidity? Light or lack of light? There was much debate on how shiny was too shiny and how green was too green. I don’t even remotely have enough time in my life to be sitting and determining the shine on individual tomatoes for storage.

So instead of following a tutorial, I just decided to wing it and do my own thing. After all, that’s pretty much how we garden at Next Gen House anyway. Doesn’t work? I won’t repeat the mistakes next year.

I took one of those large cardboard produce trays that we brought home from Costco once and lined it with newspaper.

empty costco tray

I then removed the little stems from the cherry tomatoes and started layering them in the box.

costco tomatoes tray

Then I repeated the process for a few more layers.

For the larger tomatoes, I used those styrofoam coolers you can get at the grocery store. I did two small ones for all of the green tomatoes.

full green tomatoes

Layer after layer, I filled up the two styrofoam containers and added them in my makeshift root cellar: our basement shower.

tomatoes in root cellar resized

This is the first thing I’ve been able to store down there, and it’s all that will fit now, unless we put up shelves. But that’s probably good for a first time root cellar/green tomato experiment.

I did put some half ripe tomatoes in an extra large styrofoam container, to watch them more closely and see how they do, since they should ripen first. I’ll probably check those ones every other day or so, and check the root cellar ones each week until I start to see some changes.

Have you ever tried to store green tomatoes? Heard of anyone doing it?