The Q&A Archives: Ripening Long Keeper Tomatoes

Question: I planted two Burpee long keeper tomato plants from seed in mid June. To date, I haven't really harvested a ripe tomato from the plant although many are yellowish on the top with a pinkish orange blush extending up from the bottom. Since we may be experiencing our first frost later this week, what do you suggest in terms of picking and ripening these fruits. Can I put them in a plastic box or paper bag with some bananas? If so, how often do I need to uncover them to expose them to fresh air? Can I simply put holes in the box or bag to allow fresh air in?

Answer: It's great that you have fruit from seeds sown so late! Your tomatoes are at a promising stage for indoor ripening. There's no need to expose them to ripe bananas, though - this may actually cut their storage life. Instead, try these techniques: If you have a basement, garage or barn that maintains a temperature of 55-75F, you can uproot the entire plant and hang it upside down. Fruit will "vine ripen" even though the plant itself dries down. Light is not important for ripening, so it's okay if the room is dark. Or, you can pick the fruit and keep them shelved in a single layer.

Once ripe, the "long keepers" are best stored in a single layer on a cool shelf, which would be at about 55 degrees. Before storage, remove the stems and wash the tomatoes in a solution of one and a half teaspoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of water, then dry thoroughly. This will help minimize rot problems in storage. Just the same, check frequently for signs of deterioration. And enjoy!

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