Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Box-ripened tomatoes

Last month, when we harvested the last of our tomatoes that were left on the vine, most of them were still green. Our plan was to tuck these in a newspaper-lined box, stow it down in the basement, and wait for them to ripen. We've done this before and managed to enjoy home-grown tomatoes well into December. However, this year, for some reason, they don't seem to be ripening up very quickly. Maybe it's just the colder weather, but when we checked on the box today, we found that most of the tomatoes were a bright orange, a few were still green or yellowish, and not one was really red. Still more disappointingly, some of the tomatoes were already beginning to go soft or wrinkled even though they weren't properly ripe. So if we left them in the box to ripen further, there was a possibility they might just get steadily softer without actually getting any riper.

So, instead, we opted to cut our losses. We took all the questionable tomatoes, cut out any parts that look definitely bad, and chopped them up into a salsa, along with as many others as needed to fill out the recipe. And the result was, I would say, acceptable. They may not have had quite the flavor of vine-ripened tomatoes, but mixed with all the lime and jalapeno and all, it hardly made a difference. Even if they weren't fully ripe, our tomatoes were certainly up to the standards of supermarket tomatoes, which were all we could normally get at this time of year.

So on the whole, I think the box-ripening technique works acceptably well, but I still wonder if there's some way to improve on it. Maybe putting an apple or something in the box with them to give off more ethylene would speed the ripening process. A quick Google search just now turned up this Wikihow article, which recommends using a green banana for the purpose, but my concern about that would be the banana itself. Left in a closed box with a bunch of tomatoes, tucked away out of sight and out of mind in the basement, it could easily go from green to black before we thought to check in on it. Maybe we should try one of the other methods in the article instead, such as ripening the tomatoes in paper or plastic bags. That way we could keep them in the kitchen where we could keep an eye on them. For now, though, the tomatoes we've got left will probably have to stay in their box in the basement. We're leaving on our annual Christmas visit to Brian's folks next weekend, and we wouldn't want the remaining tomatoes to go from unripe to overripe in our absence.
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