The sad fact of gardening in Colorado is that the season is too short for all the green tomatoes to ripen before the first freeze hits.
The forecast for overnight lows in the 30s sent me scrambling yesterday to harvest all the tomatoes and peppers still growing in the garden.
I knew I had quite a bit of fruit left on the plants, but it wasn’t until I started filling up baskets, colanders and buckets did I realize how many beautiful green tomatoes were waiting on the vine.
Some plants still had bright yellow blossoms and would continue on for months, if I lived in a tropical climate.
Now, what to do with all these green gems?
Generations of creative cooks have made the most of this late-season harvest of green tomatoes by preparing them and preserving them.
Green tomatoes can be sautéed, stewed, roasted, fried, made into relish or chutney, stirred into soup, baked into bread or cake, and preserved by canning or freezing. There are hundreds of recipes available online, especially these from the University of Alaska Extension. If any group should know about green tomatoes, it’s Master Gardeners in Alaska. I plan to include these recipes when I take a big bag of green tomatoes to my neighborhood food pantry.
How to Ripen Green Tomatoes
After all the green fruit is harvested, sort the tomatoes according to size and color. Mature green tomatoes have a good size and have started to change color from green to a light white or barely pink.
Because these tomatoes will eventually ripen and have a good taste, I wrap them individually in newspaper and keep them in a cool, dark spot in the basement. Every few days I check their progress over several weeks. I look forward to opening up each little bundle and always feel like I’ve won a prize when I find a bright red tomato ready to eat.
Then I sort the remaining immature tomatoes by their uses. Some of the larger green tomatoes will be cut into quarters, placed in a roasting pan, drizzled with olive oil, and slow roasted for several hours. I’ll refrigerate this batch to use as a condiment to accompany meat or curry dishes.
Other green tomatoes will be washed, cored, and diced for freezing in convenient two-cup packets. These chopped tomatoes have a future as a tasty vegetable to be tossed or blended into soups, sautéed and added to omelets, simmered into stews, or baked into other dishes that benefit from their bright, piquant flavor.
With careful planning, I’ll be able to enjoy my green tomatoes until it’s time to plant some more.