The green tomatoes in the garage are slowly ripening. The taste won't compare to that of deep-red fruits plucked ripe from the vine, but it's still nice to have plentiful fresh tomatoes.
I'm always sad on the autumn day I'm forced to admit that it's no longer worth trying to protect outdoor tomato plants from fall frosts. Knowing it will be many months before next year's vine-ripe tomatoes, I gather in all unblemished green fruits to squirrel away in the garage. I suppose anyone who loves fried green tomatoes doesn't dread the harvest of green fruits like I do, but I much prefer my tomatoes red.
After harvest, I spread out the green tomatoes in single layers in shallow boxes covered with newspapers and wait for them to show signs of ripening. Not all of these tomatoes will make it to the table. There are always some that start to rot before they're ripe. So, several times a week, I peek under the newspapers, toss out any that are spoiling, and bring into the kitchen any tomatoes that show some red.
A cool storage temperature, such as in the garage, slows down the ripening process and helps keep fresh tomatoes coming for a number of weeks. If the storage temperature threatens to drop below freezing, it's time to move the fruits to the basement or other protected place.
Luckily, some other kinds of garden vegetables can be enjoyed fresh for many months after harvest with even less effort than tomatoes. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes are particularly dependable long-term keepers. Both store best at temperatures of about 55 to 60 degrees, which is easily doable for just about anyone. Just tuck them away in the coolest part of your house, such as a basement closet.
Before storing, though, both sweet potatoes and butternut squash need about a week of adjustment after harvest. Called curing, this process is nothing more than time spent at room temperature before being stored in a somewhat cooler place.
Immediately after harvest, I wrap unblemished sweet potatoes in newspapers and tuck them into a cardboard box and set the box indoors for curing. Containers filled with butternut squash can be set indoors as-is for their week of adjustment, then laid on a shelf in a single layer for long-term storage.
Other kinds of winter squash and pumpkins can be stored straight from the garden without processing, too. They just don't keep as exceptionally long as butternuts do.
Meanwhile, outdoors the harvest goes on of exceptionally hardy crops like kale and corn salad. Spinach in the cold frame is thriving and will likely survive winter to provide an extra-early spring harvest, too.
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