They’re promising today will be cloudy and dreary but so far, it’s a lovely, crisp morning with no clouds. Very sunny, 45 degrees. Which is about as cold as it got here in the northwest ‘burbs, after forecasts of “patchy frost” and “probability of frost”.
Yesterday I was looking at the ripening tomatoes in this large tray we have. I put the tomatoes I picked a couple of weeks ago before the first frost warning, hard and green then, onto a tray that I put in a sunny window. Now I’ve heard all kinds of things about how to ripen green tomatoes, and I’ve done them all: take off the stem, don’t take off the stem, wrap them in newspaper, put them in the dark, whatever. The results have always been mixed. This time, I’m keeping it simple: just put them in a sunny window (or by the slider door, as we have), as close as they can get to still being on the vine.
And they are ripening fast, too fast to eat. I’d be like Lucy on the chocolate assembly line, stuffing my face with tomatoes, to keep up!
And they are all still luscious, as if picked while ripe. Cut away any imperfections, slice or cut into chunks, and it’s August again.
So I was pondering making tomato sauce, but with fewer than 20 tomatoes, was it worth it? Then friends we visited last night told me they were holding on to their last two tomatoes, saving them for something special. Would you like more?, I asked. Yes, yes, yes!, they answered. So the tomatoes gained a new home.
With last night’s frost warning, I went out in the garden at about 10pm, when we got home, with light only from the moon and a neighbor’s front door lamp. And a weak flashlight. With my basket, I began picking the small (2″) tomatoes most visible. But there were surprises: because the flashlight was so weak, I moved branches aside with greater gusto than usual. After all, if we were to get a frost, the branches would be dead anyway. In this way, I found big tomatoes, some already ripening, some almost large enough to fill my hand. One after the other.
So I snapped those off, and others, until I had a full basket AND my pants pockets and vest pockets were stuffed! These new tomatoes refilled the tray I already had by the sliding door glass and filled a second one that I had to add. A whole new crop, some of which may last until Thanksgiving — we’ll see how that goes.
I say that because there is no rhyme or reason to why certain ones ripen before others. There are three or four varieties, but I find no pattern among the varieties. Or the size. Or whether or not they still have some stem. Even with two tomatoes still joined by a snapped-off stem, one will ripen and the other is still a bright green. Some are still very green a week after bringing them in, others take only a couple of days to turn red. I just take it as it comes, letting nature do her thing. There is something comforting in this: that something else is in control, so let it go, let it happen. I can see why friends believe in God.
So I bend over the tray and decide which three or four will get the prized spot by the southern window, which ones will get the chance to ripen faster. I pick one, already a little pink, a Beefsteak with a flat top and wide shoulders, great for slices on a sandwich. Another round one with a pointed bottom, a Celebrity variety, has a few spots on it, so if it doesn’t ripen fast it will go bad, so that one gets a place in the window. I take my time with this, judging and wondering and asserting that I am making the right choices. I like to think they are, well, thanking me.
Certainly they are ripening right on the tray by the glass door so I may have to make tomato sauce anyway. It would be a wonderful end to the season, one that I’m trying to stretch by bringing it indoors. And before we have to go back to buying store-bought tomatoes, we’ll celebrate the last garden tomato. Whether or not it makes it to Thanksgiving.