The first frost hit at my house, but fortunately I had covered my tomatoes so they survived. Often in this area, tomatoes don't get to ripen because of our early frosts. When the growing season is coming to a close, you can take matters into your own hands.
I have now actually dug up all my plants, put them in large pots and brought them inside. They are in a sunny location, and I hope to keep them growing and producing. However, I know that not everyone always has a space inside to place large plants. So, you can try a couple different methods of getting your tomatoes to ripen.
Some people uproot the plants, shake off all the dirt, then hang them upside down in a place where they won't freeze. Supposedly, this makes the sugars that are left in the green leaves and stems move down to the hanging fruit. Others pick all the tomatoes and then ripen them. I have tried both methods, and the picking is less messy! I put all the tomatoes in a single layer on sunny windows or counters, turning them periodically so that they ripen evenly.
University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension offers some good advice on picking and ripening your tomatoes. They say, "Pick ripe, nearly ripe and mature green fruits before frost occurs. Mature green tomatoes are those with a glossy, whitish green fruit color and mature size. Select only fruit from healthy vines, and pick only those fruit free of disease, insect or mechanical damage. Remove stems. If dirty, gently wash and allow the fruit to air dry. To store these picked tomatoes or peppers, put them in boxes, one to two layers deep. If you have a cool, moderately humid room, simply place them on a shelf. Keep fruit out of direct sunlight."
That's my way, except that I actually put my tomatoes in direct sunlight. However, usually they aren't mature yet.
The humidity of your ripening location can also affect how well the fruit develops. If it's too humid, the tomatoes and peppers will rot. If it's too dry, they will shrivel up and never mature.
When tomatoes and other fruit or vegetables ripen, they put out ethylene gas. This gas speeds up the ripening process. So, if you want to enjoy your tomatoes over a longer period, sort out tomatoes as they ripen and place them away from the green tomatoes. To speed up ripening, put your green tomatoes in a bag or box with some ripe tomatoes.
If all else fails, eat fried green tomatoes! Happy gardening!
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 887-2252. You can "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing email@example.com or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at www.unce.unr.edu.
n JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.