In South Dakota, the tomatoes have set on the vine. As I go out into the garden, I see the vines heavy laden with delicious fruit. When going out to pick those fruits, there are some things to take into consideration and remember. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to picking and storing your tomatoes.
When picking your tomatoes, don’t drop them into a box or other container. Tomatoes are soft and they bruise easily. When tomatoes become bruised, this will lead to early rotting. This means you will have more waste when it comes to eating, canning and preserving your tomatoes. So when you pick the tomato off the vine, place them gently in the container.
You have the fruit picked, place the tomatoes into flat boxes. The best, or most convenient type of boxes are the ones that beer comes in. Place your tomatoes in single layers into the beer boxes. Make sure that you place the tomatoes no more than two layers deep. If you place the tomatoes more than two layers deep, you will bruise your tomatoes.
Now that you have the tomatoes in the boxes, where do you store them? Tomatoes taste the best when they are room temperature. If you have too many to eat or won’t be canning or processing them for several days, you will need to refrigerate them. This should buy you 5 days, and sometimes more, before they begin to spoil. A lot of this depends on how ripe the tomatoes were when you picked them. Unfortunately, tomatoes loose their flavor in the refrigerator, but this will extend their life. Then, when you want to eat them or use them, simply take them out of the refrigerator and lay them on the counter for a while until they are room temperature. Most of the flavor will return.
If you can’t use the tomatoes in a day or two, but you yearn to have the best flavor possible, and then process the tomatoes into an uncooked sauce or salsa. This will help preserve your tomatoes for 7 to 10 days. Store the jars of salsa or sauce in the refrigerator. If you don’t feel like chopping and making these, then you can puree the tomatoes. Pour the sauce into baggies or plastic containers and put these into the freezer. When you need tomatoes simply take them out of the freezer and use them as you need. Of course, if you have a lot of tomatoes, little time or are just feeling lazy, you can leave the tomato whole. You don’t need to peel them or process them at all. Just put one or two into a freezer bag and put them in the freezer. When you are ready to use your tomatoes, remove from the freezer. When the tomatoes are defrosted, pass them through a tomato press or food processor. This will give you delicious homegrown tomatoes for your favorite dishes.
Freeze The tomatoes
If you have tomatoes that are still green when the season ends, they don’t have to go to waste. Simply pick them, then wrap each one loosely in a sheet of newspaper. Store the tomato stem side down in the flat box and place the tomatoes in a dark, dry place. We used to place ours in the porch. We put newspaper around them, but didn’t cover them totally. We left the bottom part sticking out so we could see when they were ripe. Our porch wasn’t very dark, but it was cool as the seasons were changing and we could check them daily. When they ripened, we processed them into soups, juice and salsas.