We attempted a garden this year.  Due to circumstances, we were unable to properly prepare the soil, so we did the best we could.  Of course, being total newbies and lacking any shade of green in my thumb, I didn’t really expect to get much.  I just wanted to learn as much as I could. 

One of the plants that seemed to actually do well was my tomatoes.  I had 8 plants–6 standard-sized, and 2 cherry.  The problem with tomatoes here is that we have a very short growing season.  Our season runs from about mid-June to early- Septemeber.  Even then, only in August does the temperature really get over 75* on a consistent basis. 

So, we began with tomato starts in hopes of giving the plants time to fruit.  By the end of the season, we had lots and lots of green tomatoes!  I was so excited, but the weather just refused to stay warm enough to make them ripen.  We had green tomatoes for weeks.  Then, mid-September came, and we had our first frost.  By the next morning, the plants were completely wilted.

There were several dozen tomatoes, though, and I decided to experiment with forced-ripening, using two methods I had read about. 

The first method involved pulling the plants out, roots and all, and hanging the plants upside down in a cool, dark place.  My garage seemed perfect.  Everything I read said they would ripen on the vine.

I really wasn’t prepared for how heavy the plants were.  The healthiest 2 were so full of long vines, leaves, and green tomatoes, they probably weighed over 30 pounds each!  Trying to heft them up to the ceiling to hang was hard enough the first time.  When the weight caused my nail to bend and the plants to fall to the ground, I had to devise a new support system to hang them.  Eventually I got it figured out, but not before I wound up with about 40 green tomatoes strewn around the garage. 

The second method I wanted to try was to ripen tomatoes in a dark box in the kitchen.  We collected the healthiest looking ones from the garage floor.  S placed the tomatoes in a box, covered them with moist newspaper, and closed the box. 

Both methods worked to some extent.  However, the second method had a much better outcome overall.  Hanging the plants only ripened about 10% of the tomatoes, while the box resulted in about 75% ripening to red.  (Don’t you love my “about” measurements, and rounded percentages?  You can tell I’m pretty scientific!  😉 ).  Of course, as green as they were when we had to pluck them from the vine, none were the nice, juicy, sweet tomatoes you would expect from home-grown.  They were comparable to store-bought, though, so not too bad.   The children wound up eating most for snacks, and the chickens got a bunch of the ones that either didn’t ripen or wilted first. 

It was a fun experiment, and very interesting to compare the two methods simultaneously.  Nonetheless, next year, I’ll go straight to the box if need be.  It was much simpler, cleaner, and faster.