Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

062 Will Green Tomatoes Ripen? Here's How to Help Them Along.

November 20, 2020 Fred Hoffman Season 1 Episode 62
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
062 Will Green Tomatoes Ripen? Here's How to Help Them Along.
Chapters
1:23
Will Those Green Tomatoes Ripen?
15:13
Smart Pots!
16:15
How to Propagate Strawberry Plants
18:22
Dragon Fruit. It's Edible!
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
062 Will Green Tomatoes Ripen? Here's How to Help Them Along.
Nov 20, 2020 Season 1 Episode 62
Fred Hoffman

Those of you in milder climates may still have a few tomatoes clinging to your shivering vines. More than likely, they are probably green tomatoes. You might be wondering, will they ripen? Our favorite college horticulture professor (retired) Debbie Flower says, “It depends how green they are.” She has tips for determining which ones are most likely to ripen, and how to ripen them indoors. Just in case they won’t, we have a recipe for healthy oven baked green fried tomatoes…without the frying.  Also, how to multiply your strawberry patch, for free! And we bring back succulent expert Debra Lee Baldwin to talk about one more edible succulent…dragon fruit.
It’s Episode 62 of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes!

Links:
Smart Pots
Farmer Fred Rant: Will Those Green Tomatoes Turn Red?
Debra Lee Baldwin: 10 Edible Succulents and How to Prepare Them
Book: "Propagating Plants" by Alan Toogood and the American Horticulture Society
BrownThumbMama.com

Garden Basics comes out every Friday during November through January. We’ll be back to a twice a week schedule in February.  More info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred.

Got a garden question? E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below.
All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from possible links mentioned here.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Those of you in milder climates may still have a few tomatoes clinging to your shivering vines. More than likely, they are probably green tomatoes. You might be wondering, will they ripen? Our favorite college horticulture professor (retired) Debbie Flower says, “It depends how green they are.” She has tips for determining which ones are most likely to ripen, and how to ripen them indoors. Just in case they won’t, we have a recipe for healthy oven baked green fried tomatoes…without the frying.  Also, how to multiply your strawberry patch, for free! And we bring back succulent expert Debra Lee Baldwin to talk about one more edible succulent…dragon fruit.
It’s Episode 62 of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes!

Links:
Smart Pots
Farmer Fred Rant: Will Those Green Tomatoes Turn Red?
Debra Lee Baldwin: 10 Edible Succulents and How to Prepare Them
Book: "Propagating Plants" by Alan Toogood and the American Horticulture Society
BrownThumbMama.com

Garden Basics comes out every Friday during November through January. We’ll be back to a twice a week schedule in February.  More info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred.

Got a garden question? E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below.
All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from possible links mentioned here.

Farmer Fred:

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. it's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.

Farmer Fred 2:

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, well you've come to the right spot.

Farmer Fred:

Those of you in milder climates may still have a few tomatoes clinging to your shivering vines, and more than likely, they're probably green tomatoes. But you might be wondering, will they ripen? Well, our favorite college horticulture Professor, retired, Debbie Flower, says it really depends how green they are. She has tips for determining which ones are most likely to ripen and how to ripen them indoors. And just in case they won't ripen, we have a recipe for a healthy, oven baked green fried tomatoes without the frying. Also, how to multiply your strawberry patch for free. And we bring back succulent expert Debra Lee Baldwin to talk about one more edible succulent, dragon fruit. It's Episode 62 of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast brought to you by Smart Pots. And we'll do it all in under 30 minutes. Let's go.

Farmer Fred 2:

We get questions here at the Garden Basics podcast. Cathy writes in and says, "I have a Better Boy tomato that, after a little over the summer, started producing again. It's full of green tomatoes and various sizes. Since it looks like the temperatures are going to dip pretty low in the next few days, should I pick the larger ones and let them ripen inside? We would like to know." And this is one of these California problems, Debbie Flower, retired horticultural professor, and this is something we Californians go through with every October or Novembe,r wondering if those green tomatoes out there are going to ripen before the first frost hits or the second frost or the third frost. What do you do? Do we just serve up fried green tomatoes? Or do those tomatoes that are out there on the vine have a chance in late fall?

Debbie Flower:

Well, first of all, I think it's also a problem for other places because those tomatoes, genetically, are a perennial. And if the climate remained warm enough, they would ripen and continue to grow. And so wherever you are, no matter how early or if frost comes, if you've got a tomato plant and it's producing fruit, you're gonna be faced with this problem as well.

Farmer Fred:

You're absolutely right in that this problem probably hits every tomato grower in America. Just some it hits them earlier than others sometimes in September; some of them in October, others in November or December.

Debbie Flower:

Yes, right. My son lives in Minnesota, they've had snow already. So it's a moot point for them now. But it happened before, happened earlier in the year. So yes, we all go through this with the tomatoes. I was looking at a friend's tomato plant the other day, and there were some really nice red ones all ready to be picked. And then there are the green ones. And yes, your question is or your the caller's question is, what will happen to those? It depends.

Farmer Fred:

Thank you. Yes, indeed, it does depend. So I guess what one has to do is sort of like take a sample of the tomato and perform an autopsy on it.

Debbie Flower:

Yes, the tomatoes ripen over time. And they start green and then they progressed to red or orange or you know, depending on stripes, whatever color you have of tomato that you're growing. And so we need to check with the maturity of that fruit. If it has matured far enough, while it's still on the plant. Then you can bring it in, put it on a window sill or you can wrap in newspaper. I did it in the basement of one of my houses in a fruit box on a bed, wrapped each one in newspaper, so you can bring them in and they will ripen if they've matured far enough on the plant. And so you have to, as you say, dissect them to find out if they've matured far enough.

Farmer Fred:

So what are the signs you look for? I imagine you kind of slice it open through the middle and then you take a look at what's going on on the inside.

Debbie Flower:

Right. So a fruit exists on a plant to produce seeds so that the plant can reproduce. And so that's what we're going to look if the if the tomato is completely green and we cut it up and then we need to look at the seeds. The seeds on tomatoes as they mature, develop a gel, a sort of pillowcase around them, a coating around them. And if that if the seeds have produced that coating and they sort of push away from the knife as you cut it, then the tomatoes are mature enough to ripen. If when you cut the tomato in half if you cut right through the seeds and or there is no gel coating around the seeds then they are not ripe enough to continue ripening off the plant.

Farmer Fred:

And I guess if you look and see if the seeds move or not, as you're cutting through. I noticed that Texas a&m University has some advice that after you slice through the center of the tomato, examine the seeds within the fruit. If the seeds are covered with a clear gel, which causes them to move away from the knife, then that fruit will eventually turn red and ripen. On the other hand, if the seeds are cut by the knife, then those fruits will never properly ripen.

Debbie Flower:

Right, exactly. Yeah, it's an interesting aside, at least for me, is that if you wanted to save seeds from your tomatoes that you grew this year, and see what you get from them next year, they're seeds, so they won't be exactly like the parent plant that you just took them from. But what you have to do to get those seeds prepare those seeds to be able to plant them next year is get that gel that's around the seeds to ferment off to expose the seed from that gel, that gel is pretty important indicator of maturity of the plant.

Farmer Fred:

And I guess this is something that you cannot put off doing. Picking the tomatoes from the yard, for ripening on inside the house. Because if a frost does hit, you're shortening the life of those green tomatoes.

Debbie Flower:

Yeah, there's some important temperatures to keep in mind. Fruit development on a tomato plant slows way down based on night temperatures when night temperatures get in the 40s. So night temperatures in general are very, very important to plant development and maturity. And so if temperatures are going to drop into the 40s, or below 50, then the plant is unable to produce the pigments that and the chemicals that allow that fruit to ripen. And so it'll just stall, it'll just stop. So yes, you got to watch those night temperatures and bring those fruit in before the temperatures drop too low.

Farmer Fred:

And from what I understand too, it's a good idea to not rip the fruit off of the plant, but leave a little bit of the stem. Because if you rip the stem out of the fruit, that'll open them up to more decay.

Debbie Flower:

Yes, true. Any, we're taking a plant that a fruit that's been growing on a plant outdoors and been exposed to whatever is in the air. And if we make any holes in it, whether we're picking a tomato that has maybe a slug hole or, or some other kind of browsing hole in it, or we we rip that stem out of the top, we've opened the fruit up to to the fungus and particularly bacteria that are in the air around the fruit and it's all downhill from there, you're just gonna end up with a whole bunch of mush. So cut the fruit off, don't rip it off.

Farmer Fred:

I guess if you're just going out there to pick the mature green tomatoes, I guess a couple of things is to look at the size of the tomato, and any sort of coloration change that might be going on?

Debbie Flower:

Yes, a mature green tomato kind of needs to be defined. Right? Yes. They're well-sized. So, we tested whether it was time to pick them by cutting them. So obviously that one tomato is not going to continue to ripen. So now we're gonna go out in the garden and look for ones probably of similar size. And we will look at color, if they were green, which all tomatoes are in the beginning. And they're going to become a red tomato, they'll go through a phase where they have turned sort of more white, if they're that color, and they're good size and they have the chance to become red and and produce the flavor that we'd like so much.

Farmer Fred:

And I guess if that tomato is completely green, maybe start looking for others that shows some sort of color change.

Debbie Flower:

Yeah, obviously there's gonna be some that have gone beyond going from green to white, and then they're going to start to become red. And if they become red, and you bring them in and put them in a well ventilated area, they don't need to be in the sun. As I said, I've done it in the basement. We didn't have windows in the basement, not that produced sun anyway, they will ripen without being in the sun and you'll have great tomatoes.

Farmer Fred:

What is the proper storage temperature for these mature green tomatoes?

Debbie Flower:

Well, you certainly want something above 50 degrees and below 85. Probably around room temperature would be the best. I don't know about your house but 65 to 75 degrees, you could probably go lower than that 60 degrees to 75 degrees. You don't want it too high because then they're going to dry out you don't want it too cold because then they won't ripen as quickly.

Farmer Fred:

And once that tomato is fully ripe what is the best storage for tomatoes?

Debbie Flower:

Tomatoes, which should not really be put in the refrigerator, because refrigerators run around 40 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit and that will destroy some of the flavor molecules in the tomato so you want it to be 45 to 50 degrees. In my world that's a hard temperature to come by, if you've got some kind of maybe a wine refrigerator that you can control or special little produce refrigerator, where you can raise the temperature a bit higher than what your normal refrigerator is, then you're you've got the ideal situation, maybe a root cellar, yes, if you have a root cellar that might work, but in my house, I don't have any of those things. And so I just leave them on the counter, but not next to the stove, not next to the oven, not near a heat vent. I want them to have good airflow. So put them up on a rack and space them so that air can flow between them. wrapping them in newspaper can also be used because it helps dissipate the moisture that alive, these fruits are alive, that alive fruit is producing, and it will result in less rot.

Farmer Fred:

I guess, then, for the next couple of weeks or so, if they are maturing at room temperature and probably take about two weeks for them to mature, is to check them every few days and find ones that may have gone bad.

Debbie Flower:

Yeah, absolutely.

Farmer Fred:

Hopefully you got them before they go bad and get to use them. Can them, freeze them, dehydrate them, whatever your processes. And then if you store them right again, again, build that root cellar while you're waiting and put them in there. And they'll last a few more weeks. Right? Right. Have you ever tried pulling up an entire tomato plant and hanging it upside down in your garage?

Debbie Flower:

I have not. I think once in the past, I took the some branches and hung them in the garage. And that would have been the basement when I had a basement. It just seems like such a messy job to pull up the whole plant and drag roots and dirt and all around inside anywhere. The house, the garage, the basement, wherever. So no, I have not done that.

Farmer Fred:

For those who have tried it, they probably know that you need to avoid sunlight, because the tomatoes will spoil and ripen unevenly. And again, that root cellar temperatures wouldn't be ideal for that in the 55-65 range.

Debbie Flower:

They would. And it wouldn't be a big problem to bring the dirt into the root cellar. So yeah, I envy the root cellar people.

Farmer Fred:

Now one thing about storing tomatoes, I think this is a good idea, too, is to store them by color. Have several different cardboard boxes in which to place these tomatoes and then basically put the ones of similar coloration together because they all tend to ripen together.

Debbie Flower:

Yeah, you're absolutely right. The ones that are red or to begin with are going to ripen first. The ones that are closer to that white green color are going to be the last ones. And so you look at everything in between. So that would help you organize your harvest.

Farmer Fred:

Now, here's the dirty little secret about doing this. You're not going to get summertime flavor out of that tomato.

Debbie Flower:

No you won't. But you'll get something that's a lot better than what you find at the grocery store you go to.

Farmer Fred:

That's our criteria on this program.

Debbie Flower:

Yeah, yeah, that's the point, right?

Farmer Fred:

Yes, exactly. So basically, if you do all that, you can extend that to the enjoyment of tomatoes. Instead, keep having BLT sandwiches for a few more weeks or maybe a couple of months.

Debbie Flower:

Right Thanksgiving's coming, maybe you can have it then.

Farmer Fred:

Could be. What about fried green tomatoes? I mean, that's just not the title of a movie; that's an actual delicacy in some parts of the country.

Debbie Flower:

It is and and I've made that because I've had green tomatoes that I realized we're never gonna ripen and if they still have good flavor, they taste like tomato despite all the milk and egg and flour. It comes through that little bit of acid. Yeah, it comes through. I like an acidic tomato so I'm typically growing an acidic tomato.

Farmer Fred:

there, we have a recipe not only for fried green tomatoes, but for oven fried green tomatoes, which sort of takes the fat out of being fried. Basically, by oven frying you're just using water, flaxseed, corn meal, quinoa, corn starch, salt, pepper, and tomatoes. And basically, you might spray a baking sheet lightly with canola oil, but that's the extent of any oil you might use.

Debbie Flower:

Yeah, I didn't know that. There was a way of doing it in the oven and now it's cooled off so I'm willing to use the oven. Okay.

Farmer Fred:

Yes, it has cooled off quite a bit. Well, we learned something about extending the tomato harvest. So if especially if you're in USDA zone nine, head out to the yard real soon, start looking for those green tomatoes that may be turning color, clipping them off, bringing them in, putting them in cardboard boxes. And perhaps enjoying them in a couple of weeks. Debbie Flower, retired college horticultural professor, thanks for letting us harvest the last of the tomatoes.

Debbie Flower:

Oh, such a pleasure. Thank you, Fred.

Farmer Fred:

We're glad to have Smart Pots on board supporting the Garden Basics podcast. Smart Pots are the original award winning fabric planter. They're sold worldwide. Smart Pots are proudly made 100% in the USA. I'm pretty picky about who I allowed to advertise on this program. My criteria, though, is pretty simple. It has to be a product I like; a product I use; a product I would buy again. And Smart Pots clicks all those boxes. They're durable. They're reusable. Smart Pots are available at independent garden centers and select Ace and True Value stores nationwide. To find a store near you visit SmartPots.com slash Fred. It's Smart Pots, the original award winning fabric planter. go to SmartPots dot com slash Fred for more info and that special Farmer Fred discount on your next Smart Pot purchase, go to SmartPots.com slash Fred.

Farmer Fred 2:

Many months ago we had a discussion with Pam Farley better known as the brown thumb Mama, you can find her website at BrownThumbMama.com. And she was talking about the "Kids Choice garden veggies", you can look that up on the Garden Basics podcast and go back and check out all the vegetables that she recommends to get kids working out in the garden, growing food that they will enjoy eating and the subject of strawberries came up. How long do you keep a strawberry plant? Do you replant? Or do you save runners or mother plants are how do you go about it?

Debra Lee Baldwin:

The first year after I plant, I clip off the runners because the runners will tire out and weaken the other plants and all the moms that are listening to the podcast will understand that all the little ones will tire you out. So I have not replanted any runners. But I can, right? Just as I started as a separate plant, do you need to reroot them?

Farmer Fred:

Well actually, they are already rooted and you just dig, don't yank them out of the ground. It would be better to clip off that runner and then dig it out and then transplanted to someplace else.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Ah. That's why I say I have a brown thumb. Sometimes I do things and they don't work and sometimes they do. and I'm always learning.

Farmer Fred:

You're getting multiple years out of those mother plants then.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Yes, I'm on my third year.

Farmer Fred:

As Pam Farley found out, Yeah, you can get a few years out of a mother plant. A lot of commercial growers, though, will replant strawberries every year because with each successive year, those mother plants produce fewer and fewer strawberries. But one thing is true. Save those runners don't toss them out. Clip them off, plant them and you'll have more great strawberries in the future. There are even more good tips on propagating strawberry runners from the excellent book, "Plant Propagation" produced by the American Horticulture Society. excellent book if you want to get into plant propagation more and it talks about strawberry layering. Many strawberries, it says, have runners that root into the soil. Runner production coincides with the end of fruiting on cropping plants. Plantlets form on these stems as they grow. When the plantlets are well rooted, they may be easily severed from the parent plant. This self-layering habit can be encouraged. stems may be layered on to the soil or into pots sunk into the bed. Now that's very intriguing and this

book goes on:

For best results, keep some plants specifically for layering. Plant these three feet apart and remove the flowers. Keep the soil moist to encourage runners to develop and root peg the runners with wire staples into the soil or into three inch pots filled with a soil-based mix and plunge those pots level with the soil surface. Plant rooted plantlets into their final positions in late summer and autumn for a good crop the following season.

Farmer Fred 2:

The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast has a lot of information posted at each episode: transcripts links to any products or books mentioned during the show, and other helpful links for even more information. Plus, you can listen to just the portions of the show that interest you. It's been divided into easily accessible chapters and you'll find more information about how to get in touch with us. We have links to all our social media outlets, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Also a link to the farmerfred.com website. That's where you can find out more information about the radio shows. You remember radio, right? Now, if the place where you access the podcast doesn't have all that information, you can find it all at our home podcaster, Buzzsprout. Buzzsprout.com. Just look for the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. You'll find a link to it in the show notes.

Farmer Fred:

Recently, we were chatting with succulent expert and author Debra Lee Baldwin a out a very unusual succulent, ragon fruit. It's one of the ew succulents that's edible.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Yeah, this is probably of all the edible succulents we've talked about ot including, say tequil , which you pointed out. The dr gon fruit is a commercia fruit. And I think it would be ore popular and more widely gr wn, if they kind of ramped up the taste a little bit. It's not bad and it's sweet, but I ind it kind of insipid. For he beauty of the fruit you wan more of a punch of flavor, mo e of an intensity and so I like to peel it, and serve it with a wedge of lime, which will enhance the flavor but hat it looks like it looks like retro spaceship that is...o ay, picture like fruit that's l rger than a softball and it h s flanges or fins that are comi g off of it almost as though i were going into a windstor or think of a comet you know it looks like it's moving e en though it's not cuz these th se kind of leaf like things s rt of you know come off of it an trail behind it a little b t. But Have I done a good job of explaining that or have I c eated a monster?

Farmer Fred:

Well, actually I'l destroy your marketing effort here by saying to me it look like the Coronavirus. It do s. You know the pictures you see of these, these little Sputnik-l ke red things? It looks kind of like th

Debra Lee Baldwin:

I like that. I like that. You know it's funny when I was looking at the retro rocket ships to perfect my metaphor. I ran across one in a book from an illustration wr tten by HG Wells. It had an il ustration of a rocket ship th t look like yes what that Co onavirus Yo, yo, okay. Yeah, ye h, I like like, Oh, my gosh, re lly? Okay, so what you see in Dr gon Fruit then, is this very co orful exterior, it can be red or magenta, or shades of orange or yellow. And there are nu erous cultivars, you know, it s a vining succulent, and it' l grow in moderate climates, alo g the coast of California, in exico and in the tropics, it goe very well. Now, in other wor s, it likes warmth, like som moisture, but it doesn't lik to be over watered. It is, af er all, a cactus. So it'll the w y they grow it is a training u on a trellis. Or kind of r member the old what we used to u e to hang clothes...the lothesline. Yeah, sometimes et's say grow my looks like old ashioned clothesline. And so t e vine can be very vigorous when it's heavy. I've tried to grow it wasn't happy. It get too col , too hot, here in Southern C lifornia. I'm zone nine B and i gets down below freezing a f w degrees just enough to be a noying. And well into the 90s i 's just too cold and too hot f r this point. But it is e tremely ornamental on a plate. T is is the edible succulent you grow. Not so much for its flavo . Not so much because it's great ornamental plant, althou h it's very interesting. ut to slice and put on a frui plate because the exterior of it what would you call that t e peel, the rind, whatever. It s that wonderful color and the the flesh is white, flecked ith little tiny crunchy black s eds.

Farmer Fred:

Well, how would you describe the flavor of dragon fruit?

Debra Lee Baldwin:

I use the word earlier insipid. Meaning not not a lot of flavor, not a strong flavor. It has mild fruity overtones. It's swee . I think it's more about the texture. I don't know if I woul recognize the flavor, again, If I ran across it. It's not like you're going to see dragon f uit popsicles. It's just not like that. But I do like to ring out the flavor, later, w th a squeeze of lime. It's a eautiful addition to a summer ruit plate or a fall fruit plate Dragon fruit.

Farmer Fred:

Alright. Debra Lee Baldwin wonderful website, Debra Lee baldwin.com. And of c urse you're on YouTube, you've ot the blog, you've got a very active website and a marketplace as well.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Well, yeah, yes, thank you. I I so love what I do. And as a journalist by profession, who's come into succulents, first as a hobby, and then as a passion, I keep running across more cool things to share. So I'll add a post to my website. Oh, I have a ewsletter celebrating the joy f succulents which people can ubscribe to for free by going o the homepage of Debra Lee ba dwin.com. I have over 6 mi lion YouTube views. And I al o have a presence on Pi terest, Facebook and In tagram.

Farmer Fred:

One of the nation's leading succulent experts, Debr Lee Baldwin, specializes n showing how top floral Landsca e and Garden designers can u e sculptural succulents and a wi e variety of eye catchi g applications. Her own garden h s been in Sunset magazine Bett r Homes and Gardens and she liv s in the ideal gardening climat , near San Diego, Californi . Debra Lee Baldwin, thank you f r spending a few minutes with s here on the Garden Basi s podcas

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Thank you for it. I really enjoyed it.

Farmer Fred:

The Garden Basics podcast is going to a winter schedule, maybe just like your favorite local nursery. November through January, Garden Basic will come out once a week o Fridays. Then, as the weath r warms back up in February, we' l return to our twice a we k schedule. Thank you f r listening, subscribing, a d leaving comments. We apprecia e that you've included us in yo r garden lif

Will Those Green Tomatoes Ripen?
Smart Pots!
How to Propagate Strawberry Plants
Dragon Fruit. It's Edible!