The dance with freezing temperatures has started here at the Half-Acre Homestead as the calendar pushes ever closer to winter. Most in the TriState put their gardens to bed a long time ago but we always try to eek out as much late season produce as we can possibly gather.
In years past, boxes of green tomatoes have ripened in the garage and lasted us well into February, leaving us with just a 3 or 4 month gap before those red ripe orbs grace our countertops again. While we don’t adhere to a strict diet of eating in season, we do a pretty good job of fitting within the confines of availability or work with whatever we might have preserved.
There is the occasional “treat” but more often than not we’re faced with disappointment when we break down and buy that store-bought tomato in the dead of winter…unless it’s a hella expensive UglyRipe but that’s a different story.
This year we maxed out at 12 tomato plants in the garden. Most were random volunteers that sprouted from the bunny poo we spread around the beds to fertilize. I think only about 3 plants were planted intentionally by seed in the window of our den and then transfered out very late into the season. This summer’s extreme heat and drought left us with little to harvest. Once we made way into August though, the tables began to turn.
Buckets of cherry and volunteer paste tomatoes could be had about once a week. A nice slicer or two would ripen around the same time. Because of the heat crippled growing season, most of the plants produced new fruit toward the end of the summer and that has left us with plants overloaded with green tomatoes.
Just like our yearly tradition, we’ve rolled out our battered little red wagon, climbed into tomato trellises and done the dirty task of picking the plants bare. Even our 3 year old Darling Daughter gets in on the action, picking armloads of tomatoes to put up in the house. They really do keep and ripen well!
I wrote about how to store and ripen tomatoes well into the winter here. I’ve made an instructional video on canning your own tomato sauce or you can try out a recipe for pickled green tomatoes. They will make a perfect hostess gift for your next holiday gathering!