Gardeners' World: Monty Don explains how to harvest tomatoes
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Tomato plants usually fruit at the beginning of the summer, from around June. They can produce an abundance of fruit all the way until the frost kicks in. However, the weather can cause all sorts of problems and after a very hot summer, gardeners are being left with unripe tomatoes. Monty Don and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have shared top tips on how gardeners can ripen their fruit.
Sharing advice in his latest blog post, gardening expert Monty Don wrote: “This summer was too hot for many of them [tomatoes], especially if grown under glass.
“This meant that many stayed green much longer than in a cool summer.
“However, by September the heat is running out and inevitably we are all left with green tomatoes that are never going to ripen.”
Monty recommended that gardeners pick their tomatoes this month, either individually or on the vine.
Then, place them in a drawer with a banana and “they will ripen and turn red”, according to the expert.
The banana will release ethylene, a hormone associated with the ripening of fruit, which will help to speed up the process of ripening.
Apples also give off the same gas, but bananas tend to work better and are cheaper to use in case they go bad.
Gardeners should check the drawer regularly and remove the tomatoes as soon as they have ripened.
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The RHS said: “At the end of the season, lift outdoor plants with unripe fruit and either lay them on straw under cloches or pick the fruits and place them somewhere warm and dark to ripen.”
The experts also recommended the banana trick, to help aid ripening fast.
To check whether the green tomatoes are mature before picking, gardeners can cut one in half. If the inside is a yellow colour and has a sticky tissue around the seeds, it is mature enough to ripen.
Gardeners can then pick all the ones which look similar to that. Then, clean the tomatoes, removing vines, twigs and stems before placing them in a drawer with tomatoes.
Some experts recommend using a paper bag to help speed up the process. Also, take care not to bruise or squash the tomatoes so don’t pile them up too much.
They added: “Tomatoes are best eaten as fresh as possible. But if you have too many, then fully ripe tomatoes can be kept in a fridge for a week or so, to prevent them going mouldy.
“Try not to keep them refrigerated for long though, as the texture can deteriorate. Bring them back to room temperature before eating, to enjoy the full flavour.
“If the tomatoes aren’t yet fully ripe, leave them unrefrigerated to reach their peak of ripeness.
“Surplus ripe tomatoes can also be cooked then frozen for use in pasta sauces, soups and stews.”
For those looking to grow their own tomatoes, it is best to wait until February, March or April to guarantee a good harvest.
They should be sown indoors in warm conditions and moved outside when the risk of frost is low.
If tomato plant frost damage occurs when temperatures are low, it will stunt the plant’s growth and result in a dead fruit.
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