Ripening garden tomatoes.

Our long, hot summer here in the Ohio Valley continued well into November. In advance of a cold night last week that was forecast to bring a killing frost, I raided the tomato patch in the waning daylight after work, searching for the last cherry tomatoes hidden deep in the foliage and pulling the biggest green tomatoes (for, you know, fried green tomatoes; see the recipe here).

The vines were still positively laden with fruit, and it broke my heart to lose all those late-season tomatoes. So I used an old gardening trick: I picked a bunch of tomatoes that were showing a bit of red, and I brought them into the basement where I wrapped them in newspaper. Just over a week later, they’re ripe. The key is to begin with tomatoes that are just barely turning pink or orange; they shouldn’t be rock-hard like immature fruits, but rather a bit soft at the blossom end.

If you go this route, be forewarned: This indoor tomato ripening technique won’t yield Caprese-worthy tomatoes. You won’t be slicing these on a plate with olive oil, salt and pepper. Late-season, indoor-ripened tomatoes are fit for cooking, and in a pinch they’d be OK sliced on a burger. We used a half-dozen last night in a batch of Bolognese sauce. They would also be terrific candidates for making oven-dried tomatoes; see an easy recipe here.

We picked this colander full of cherry tomatoes in the first 2 weeks of November; the tomatoes at right were wrapped in newspaper and placed in a cool basement for just over a week to ripen.

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