green tomato chutney

  • Grow at home: how to ripen green tomatoes

     Ripening tomatoes

    Ripening tomatoes is something that most people growing tomatoes end up doing.  Due to our climate it is not at all unusual to be left with tomatoes that haven't ripened.

    Preparing for the end of the Season

    beef_tomatoes_half_ripe_on_vine

    From September on, any new flowers are very unlikely to come to anything.  So, toward the end of the season remove any tiny tomatoes, flowers and foliage.  This will allow the plant to concentrate its energy on the bigger fruits.  It is best to leave the fruit on the vine for as long as possible.  However, fruit will not ripen below 10° C (50°F). or above 29ºC (85ºF), as carotene and lycopene will not be produced and the tomato will not turn red.  The high temperatures are generally not a problem in the UK.  But when day time temperatures are this low its time to step in and help them to ripen.

    Ripening Tomatoes - How long does it take?

    How long they'll take depends on how red they are already.  Tomatoes ripen from inside out so when you see the skin turning colour, the inside is already well on the way to being ripe.  As a guide:-

    Half red tomatoes  - 7 days

    Red only on the ends - 14 days

    Pale green - ripen if given the right conditions (see Methods below)

    Dark green - if they haven't matured then they will not ripen.  To test this cut one in half.  if it has yellowish interiors and jelly-like or sticky tissue, then it could ripen.  But if not then its better to use these for making chutney.

    Did you know:?

    ripening_tomatoes_green_red_tomatoes_on_plant

    This is just for info a there is not much you can do about the weather turning against you and being left with green tomatoes! But, there is a stage in ripening called the "breaker stage," when the tomato is half green and half red. Once the tomato reaches this stage it seals itself off from the vine stem.  From this point on, the tomato can be picked and ripened indoors without losing flavour.  Your green tomatoes will be sweeter if picked after the breaker stage.

    Ripening tomatoes - top 5 methods

    Method 1 : Newspaper & Cardboard box

    If the tomatoes are dirty then wash them gently and air dry.  Wrap the tomatoes individually in newspaper and store in a cardboard box at between 14° and 21°C.  The lower you keep the temperature the longer they will take to ripen.  So if you have a large number you may wish to store them in different boxes and places so that you don't get them all ripening at once.  Check the box weekly to take out any ripe ones and get rid of any that are starting to go mangy.

    If you are impatient then speed ripening by adding a couple of apples to your box.  They will release ethylene which will help the tomatoes to ripen.

    Method 2: Paper Bag

    This one is probably better for cherry tomatoes.  Who wants to wrap those little suckers individually - not me!  For this method, place your tomatoes in a paper bag with a ripening banana (yellow with green ends).  Loosely seal it to keep the gas in.  As with the apples in Method 1, doing this should help ripen your tomatoes.  If the banana really starts to rot before the tomatoes ripen then replace it with a new banana.  You can also do this in a jar with a sealing lid instead of a paper bag but you can't cram the tomatoes in as they will bruise so unless you only have a few tomatoes it is probably better to use a paper bag.

    Method 3: Hanging the plant

    If you have room, simply cut off the leaves and dig up your tomato plant.  Shake off the soil and hang it upside down in a cool dry place like a garage out of direct light and leave to ripen. Check regularly and bring a few into the warmer house to ripen quicker when needed.

    Method 4: Bring on the Stress!

    As you reach the end of the season, take off all the leaves and then make a cut through the roots with a shovel.  This will stress the plant and make it react  as if it is under attack (which it is!) and it should bring on rapid ripening.  Some gardeners swear by this 'shock' method.

    If this feels too violent for you then a careful pull upwards at the bottom of the stem will disturb the roots below and may also work to signal the plant to ripen the fruit.

    Another way to stress the plant is to cut back on water - just make sure that the soil doesn’t get too dry or the next time you water, skins may split.

    Avoid feeding late in the season as any feed with excess nitrogen will slow the ripening process.

    Method 5: Socks!!

    Place your unripened tomatoes in woolen socks and store in your wardrobe!  And then do let us know if this works because we have no evidence that it does!

    How to avoid this problem next year

    The question is how do you avoid this happening next year?  The answer is to get yourself a longer growing season with more "tomato friendly" conditions.  Haxnicks can't control the weather but we do have a number of tools to help with this.

    The Twist Up Tomato ClocheHaxnoicks_Twist_Up_Tomato_for_ripening_tomatoes

    Once your plants are ready to go out into the garden why not use the Twist Up Tomato Cloche to give them their perfect growing environment.

    You can use it over plants in pots or in the ground.  For both it will lengthen your growing season by allowing you to put your plants out earlier than you would if they were unprotected.  The Cloche, evens out temperature changes and, apart from taking it off for a short spell for pollination, your plant will be happy in it all season.  It really comes into its own at ripening though.  Each ripening fruit releases ethylene which helps the other tomatoes to ripen.  If its windy then this gas is blown away without affecting the other fruit.  In a Twist up Tomato Cloche the gas is trapped and helps all of your fruit to turn a delicious red.

    Tomato Crop Booster Haxnicks_Tomato_crop_booster_frame_with_cover_on_patio_for_ripening_tomatoes

    If you really love your tomatoes then this is a great way to grow them.  The  Crop Booster Poly cover gives all the advantages of the Tomato Cloches when it comes to ripening but the main advantage is how the Crop booster Frame supports the plants.  Properly supported plants are able to concentrate their energy into fruit production leading to a much greater yield of tomatoes.  Giving them the conditions they need throughout the season should mean far less green tomatoes to deal with at this time of year.

    Watch this helpful video to see it 'in action' How to Grow Juicy Tomatoes

    Grower Frame with Poly CoverHaxnicks_Grower_frame_with_poly_cover_for_ripeing_tomatoes

    The Grower Frame is a quick, easy and affordable way to make the perfect, low maintenance, ‘grow your own’ space in any sized garden.  And tomatoes love it.

    Especially useful if you don't have a greenhouse as you can start your tomatoes off in it using the Grower Frame Poly cover to give them the warmth they need to start well.  You can then use the frame and cover over them in the final planting position.  There should be enough space to grow all your other salad ingredients alongside them too and there is also the option of an ultra fine Micromesh cover if the weather gets too hot but you still need to protect from pests.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Grow at Home: Tomatoes

    Beef_Tomato_on_plantGrowing Tomatoes

    Tomatoes are an easy and rewarding crop to grow.  Quite often they are the first plant a child will toddle home from school with and are therefore a perfect introduction to growing your own food.
    The main reason to grow them though, is flavour.  Supermarket tomatoes are grown to travel well and stay looking good for as long as possible on the shelves. As a result, they are often picked before they are ripe too which is not ideal.  Flavour is on the list of criteria but much lower down than it should be.

    Technical Tomato Terms

    First of all, let's start with some technical tomato terms because these will help you choose the right variety for the space you plan to grow them in.

    Indeterminate or Cordon varieties

    This is your typical, tall tomato plant.  They have a single long stem and usually grow up canes or twine up to 6' (1.8m) in height.  Cordon varieties produce side shoots which need to be removed, as they appear, or they will grow into large lateral branches leaving a tangled plant with a lower yield of ripe fruit.

    Determinate or bush varieties

    These are smaller tomato plants that are great for growing in containers, hanging baskets or anywhere where space is limited.  Bush varieties are sprawling rather than having a single central stem.  Because they are low and sprawling they are suitable for growing under cloches or mini polytunnels.  They spread about 2 or 3 foot and removing side shoots is not necessary as the bush is ‘self stopping’.

    Dwarf varieties

    Dwarf plants are the smallest, very compact plants growing no more than 8 inches high. Ideal for container growing.

    Truss

    A truss is a group or cluster of smaller stems where flowers and the subsequent tiny green tomatoes develop.  Much of the support and pruning of the plant is done in relation to where the bunches of tomatoes, or 'trusses', are growing so it is useful to know this term.

    Where to Grow

    Tomatoes require full sun. This is especially important in most areas of the UK where summers are unpredictable and sunlight can be scarce.  Position them against a wall or fence if possible to get the best results.  They also need good fertile soil. Prepare your beds by adding plenty of well rotted manure at planting time, as much as a full wheelbarrow every 3 square meters.

    Container GrowingTomatoes_growing_in_Haxnicks_3_cane_tomato_planter

    If you don't have a large garden or allotment and want to grow in a container or planter then Haxnicks have a big variety to choose from.  In reality, which container you choose depends on the variety you have selected above.

    There is a useful table at the bottom of this blog which shows the whole range of planters with a  short description and link to find out more.

     

    When & How to Grow

    Sow seed indoors in late February to June.  Due to the temperature, if sowing early use a heated propagator or a warm, south facing windowsill.

    Tomatoes can be sown 3/4" (2cm) deep in compost filled seed trays.  Try and keep your seedlings warm and give them as much light as you can.  Too little light will result in tall and weak seedlings.  The best tomato seedlings are short and stubby rather than tall and thin. Compost should also be kept moist and should never be allowed to dry out.

    When your seedlings have 5 or 6 leaves you will need to prick them out and pot them on into 10" (22cm) pots filled with a rich potting compost.  Subsequently, when they are 12" (30cm) tall move them to their final position in your plot or container. To grow really strong plants you can transfer the seedlings from the seed tray into Rootrainers and plant them out after around 6 weeks when they should have developed a super-strong root system.

     

    Support

    Tomatoes_red_on_the_plant

    Depending on the variety they will need support as they grow.  Canes have long been the traditional way to do this.  It is especially important, if using canes, to ensure that the plants are tied gently to allow the stem to grow in both width and height.  Tying too tightly will restrict growth and damage the plant.  The best way to support them is with a frame such as the new Haxnicks Tomato Crop Booster.  Since this will gently support the plants without damaging them.  A properly supported plant can put all of its energy into producing fruit leading to higher yields.  So if you want to triumph at the village show or simply want to be self sufficient in tomatoes then this could be your secret weapon.

    Pinching Out

    If you have chosen a cordon variety you will need to pinch out side shoots as the plants grow.  You will find these shoots between the main stem and the branches.  To the novice gardener it seems like this will mean you get less tomatoes but the opposite is actually true.  Pinch them out when they are 1" (2.5cm) long and this will add light and air to your plant, keeping it healthy and allowing it to concentrate its energy on fruit production.

    Pruning

    When the plants reach the top of the greenhouse or have set seven trusses indoors or four trusses outdoors, remove the growing point of the main stem at two leaves above the top truss.

    Watering and Feeding

    Tomatoes love a regular, consistent water supply so water regularly to keep the soil/compost evenly moist.  Therefore, fluctuating moisture levels can cause the fruit to split.
    Feed every 10-14 days with a balanced liquid fertiliser, changing to a high potash one once the first fruits start to set.

    If you are growing in containers or growbags there will be restricted root space so you will need to feed them more.  You will also need to pay close attention to watering.  Some self watering planters such as Vigoroot Easy Table Garden and Vigoroot Self Watering Tower Garden will make this easier however, containers generally do require frequent watering.

    Pests & Diseases

    Blossom End Rot: the bottom of the fruit turns black and becomes sunken.
    It is mainly due to irregular watering, together with a lack of calcium in the soil.  Consistent regular watering and feeding will help avoid this disease.

    Blight: this causes the fruit and foliage rot and is most common in wet weather.  Avoid planting in areas that have had plants with the disease in.  Instead, grow your tomatoes elsewhere in containers and leave these areas to rest for a year or two.  Furthermore, choosing a blight resistant variety of tomato in the first place is also a good way to avoid blight.

    Leaf mould: mainly a problem for greenhouse grown tomatoes.  Therefore, rarely seen in outdoor grown ones.  Yellow blotches develop on the upper leaf surface and a pale, greyish-brown mould growth is found under the leaf. It causes significant yield loss.  To avoid this, keep the greenhouse well ventilated or choose a resistant variety of plant.

    Tomato splitting and cracking: This is to be avoided where possible as it leave the plant open to infection.  Consequently, a fungus, such as grey mould may get in.  To avoid splitting keep the plants comfortable by controlling temperature and sunlight levels carefully. It is most important to feed and water regularly to maintain a constant soil moisture level.

    Companion planting Growing garlic and nasturtiums near your plants will help deter bugs.

    Harvesting

    Pick the fruit when it is ripe.  However, at the end of season you may have green tomatoes and not enough sunlight to ripen them.  If this happens then you can either make delicious Apple & Green Tomato Chutney or you can try and ripen them.  The best ways to do this are:

    • lift the plants with unripe fruit and lay them on straw under cloches
    • place fruits in a warm, dark place and wait
    • put the green fruit in a drawer next to a banana, which will release a gas that aids ripening.

    For further information on ripening green tomatoes see our Ripening Blog

    Try something new? Mycorrhizal Fungi

    If you have grown tomatoes before and at this point in time want to try something extra to boost your crop then tomatoes respond well to inoculation by mycorrhizal fungi.  The fungi and the tomato plants have a symbiotic relationship. The fungi form a network of hyphae which transport water and minerals to the plant and in return the roots produce sugars to nourish the fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi are available as a powder to coat seedlings when planting out.

    Which Haxnicks Container is right for me?

    (Please note: the different marker symbols don't denote anything - they are just indicating which tomato is best with which frame.  For some reason, the publishing program didn't like the same symbol being used so this is the work around!)

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    lanter
    (click on title to see details)

    Suitable for Indeterminate or Cordon varieties Determinate or bush varieties Dwarf About this product
    Tomato Crop Booster A frame that properly supports tomato plants giving a higher yield.  Poly cover sold separately to turn it into a mini greenhouse.
    Tomato (climbing) Patio Planter Planter with 3 sided plant support included.
    Tomato Patio Planter (2 pack)   ◊ 2 pack of large planters with pockets for holding canes to support the plants. For growing all varieties of tomatoes.
    4) Vigoroot Tomato/ Potato Planter Large planter for growing all varieties of tomato.  Vigoroot fabric gives stronger root systems for healthier plants
    Grower System A steel-tube growing frame with poly or Micromesh cover. Ideal for your smaller tomatoes and other veg.
    Vigoroot Self Watering tower garden A compact circular plant tower perfect for balconies and patios with Vigoroot for strong roots.
    Vigoroot Easy Table Garden Vigoroot fabric planter with integral self-watering system & poly protection cover - a raised bed, greenhouse and irrigation system all rolled into one!
    Other Tomato Accessories
    Tomato Tubes Crop protection for those without a greenhouse.
    Twist Up tomato Cloche

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