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Storing Tomatoes

storing tomatoes

Everyone who grows more than two tomato plants - and who doesn't - invariably ends up with a lot of tomatoes, both with ripe ones, and a lot of green ones, as the tomato plants keep producing until frost kills them. And while one can freeze a lot of tomatoes - cut up into chunks and sealed in plastic bags - this is good only for use in soups and pasta sauces. To enjoy that incomparable taste of a vine ripened tomato, fresh storage is the only answer.

First of all, listen carefully to the weather report for night frosts. Most tomato plants can be protected against cool weather and light night frost with a cover of clear plastic to extend the ripening period. Still, all tomatoes should be picked before the first hard frost at the latest - or before night time temperatures are consistently under 45 degrees F (10 degrees C).

All Tomatoes
Chose only unblemished tomatoes for storage, tomatoes which are free from any cracks, cuts and sign of decay. Remove the stems of the tomatoes and wash well in cool water. Many experts recommend washing the tomatoes in a light bleach solution of one tablespoon of household bleach to one gallon of water, to disinfect the fruit. This greatly extends their storage life. The bleach will not pass through the skin of the fruit and once removed from the wash water and allowed to dry naturally the chlorine from the bleach will evaporate leaving no residue or taste. Let the washed tomatoes dry on cloth or paper towels, and wrap them individually in paper. Store in the dark in shallow trays at a temperature close to 60 degrees F. (20 degrees C.) and a relative humidity of 85-90%, in a place with good air circulation. Most cool basements fit this bill.

Ripe Tomatoes
Tomatoes store and ripen best in the dark, and not on the window sill, where they will shrivel, turn bitter and rot. Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator; this will cause early rotting, failure to ripen, and marked loss of flavour and texture. And temperature above 70 degrees F (25 degrees C.) will also cause early rotting, and loss of texture and taste.

Unripe Tomatoes
Mature tomatoes, those that have begun to color have formed gel in the inside, will ripen naturally from the inside out. Ripening of these tomatoes can be accelerated by placing them in a generous plastic bag and adding a ripe apple. Ripe apples exude ethylene gas, which is the the same natural ripening agent which tomatoes also produce when ripening on the vine. This will result in almost the same heavenly flavour of vine ripened tomatoes.

Check your stored tomatoes often for signs of cracking and decay and remove these tomatoes to prevent its spread to others. With a little care, tomatoes will last to six weeks and longer, and although not quite the same as vine ripened tomatoes, these tomatoes will still have a far better taste than most store bought tomatoes.



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