Have Local Fresh Tomatoes All Year
How to Enjoy Fresh Tomatoes Year-Round without Processing or Freezing
It’s becoming possible to eat fresh local tomatoes year-round in South Coast, BC. Through the use of season extension in the garden, careful choice of tomato varieties, and planned buying and storage, you can access a supply of fresh tomatoes throughout most of the year.
Whether you plant your own or simply buy local, here’s how:
March through October – Starting in March, you can buy fresh tomatoes from local hothouse farms. Sometimes these local tomatoes also show up in neighbourhood grocery stores. Hothouse tomatoes will continue through to the end of October.
May – If you are gardening, be sure to include Long Keeper tomatoes when you plant. Seed for these is available from local farmers and selected seed suppliers. Long Keeper tomatoes develop very slowly and can be held into winter to supply fresh tomatoes when others aren’t available. Plant your usual varieties for summer harvest, and include a few Long Keepers for the cold weather season.
June, July & August – By late June or early July, if it’s a warm year in South Coast, BC, the first outdoor tomatoes from the garden and from local markets are ripe. Cherry tomatoes generally ripen earliest, followed in July, August and September by medium and large tomato varieties.
September – As cooler weather sets in about mid to late September, strip off all the tomatoes, ripe or green, from the plants in your garden before any sign of blight (black stems or leaves) shows up. Be bold and harvest them all before it is too late. It’s easy to lose much of your crop by leaving them on the vine to ripen for too long as the weather turns cold and damp. As long as they are not refrigerated, tomatoes will ripen well indoors.
If you have Long Keeper tomatoes, harvest and store them separately from other varieties, because they will ripen more slowly and you want to save them for the true winter months.
October – If you don’t garden, stop by a local hothouse or farm market and buy flats of green tomatoes before the end of the season. Ask for green tomatoes that will ripen well in storage. Depending on the quantities you buy and how green they are when you get them, they may last into December.
HOW TO STORE AND RIPEN GREEN TOMATOES
Wrap green tomatoes in paper and store in a single layer in boxes in a cool place such as a dry, unheated, insulated garage or basement (not in the refrigerator). Temperatures of about 13–16ºC (55–60ºF) will allow slow ripening. Tomatoes stored in temperatures of 16–20ºC (60–68ºF) will ripen more quickly, however, they may not last as long into winter. Check your tomatoes every two or three days and bring out those that are beginning to change colour. Let tomatoes ripen on the counter out of the sunlight.
Winter farmers markets are another source of Long Keeper tomatoes, if you would like to buy them already ripened.
If your Long Keepers will stretch into February, you’ll have made it year-round. With local hothouse tomatoes ripening in early March, you’re ready to start a new tomato year.
More about tomatoes:
How to Make Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
How to Save Tomato Seeds