Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Harvesting the last tomatoes

by Francesca

Each day for the last 10 days or so, I've wondered whether this was the day I should harvest all the remaining tomatoes on the vines. Our days are growing shorter, but the nights are still warm. However, fall officially begins tomorrow, and one of these evenings temperatures are liable to drop suddenly. When is the right time to harvest those last tomatoes?

This year I only grew the two kinds of tomatoes I like best (here): date tomatoes (possibly the same as the English "grape tomato"?), and beefsteak tomatoes.

last date tomatoes

I've had a very large crop of date tomatoes, which are wonderful little bite-sized morsels of intense flavor, and though the plants are now showing signs of decline, they're still healthy.

However, the beefsteak tomatoes, which I'm very fond of because they're excellent both raw and in a sauce, have recently become heavily infested by stink bugs.

last tomatoes

These stink bugs don't seem to harm the plant itself, but they ruin the tomatoes:

last tomatoes 2

Above you can see what the damage looks like: a discolored area on the surface of the tomato.

last tomatoes 3

And on the inside, the flesh is dry and corky.

So, I've decided to leave the date tomatoes on the vines as long as the weather holds, whereas I chose to harvest all the healthy beefsteak tomatoes, most of which were unripe, before the stink bugs got to them.

What do you do with green tomatoes? In my part of the world, we keep them in brown paper bags together with an apple: the ethylene gas from the apple encourages ripening.