Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ripening tomatoes

The after work gardener, Thursday 29 September

At last, after weeks of worrying, the forest of rampaging tomatoes has finally begun to listen to my prayers and turn red. No more fears of endless jars of green tomato chutney.

3 key factors have helped in this change of colour fortune.  Firstly, I tried the trick of picking the green tomatoes and putting them in a bag with one red one, and hoping that the redness would rub off (a bit more scientific than that, apparently it's temperature and ethylene that makes them redden).  This worked to some degree, but unfortunately to the detriment of the sweet taste you get when picked ripe straight off the vine.

The next method I tried was stressing the tomato plants by pulling off lots of the stalks and leaves that weren't laden with fruits (which made me feel a little sad) which definitely had an impact at shocking the plants into action and started producing a handful of red fruits.  However, if I was a professional tomato gardener, I should have been pinching out tops and side-shoots much earlier in the season to channel all growing energies into ripening, rather than letting the plants rampage around the veggie plot, overshadowing my aubergines, and growing completely out of control.  In fact, it was only due to sheer luck that the plants weren't all snapped in two by high winds as until they reached waist height, they remained pretty  much un-staked.  All top tips for next year.

Thirdly, and probably most importantly, the factor that has kick-started ripening the most, has been the glorious Indian summer that has suddenly overtaken us here in London - this last burst of sun and hot weather has speeded up the reddening massively.  In fact, last evening, all my tomato dreams came true, and I returned to such a glut  that I finally had a chance to create my own oven-dried tomatoes.  Delicious. My fridge now looks like a professional delicatessen, I'm very impressed.

PS. Thankfully I didn't have to rely on 'Fourthly', which would have been to pull the plants up before the first frost and hang them upside down to encourage a bit of colour.

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