Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bag-Ripened Tomatoes

A lot of fuss is made in the markets about "vine-ripened" tomatoes.  Sure, it's great if you can leave a tomato on the plant until it's ripe, pick it, and use it within an hour.  What the grocery stores don't tell you is that, in order to wait until a tomato is ripe before it is picked, they have to refrigerate it immediately and keep it cold at all stages of transport and storage, or it will get too ripe in the days to a week before you buy it.  To be fair, that is how all tomatoes are treated, even if they're picked mostly green.  Unfortunately, that means that most Americans do not really know what a tomato tastes like.  The taste and texture are killed below 50º.  What we get in the produce aisle is a pale imitation of a real tomato.  The ones in cans were not of the correct size or had imperfections and were processed immediately, making them taste slightly better than fresh.
Day 1
I have three different varieties of tomato growing: cherry, beefsteak, and Bradley.  After almost drowning Brad last year, he has become a hearty plant and is putting out good-sized fruit.
Day 2  Already ripening
The squirrels, birds, and other wildlife in the neighborhood love Brad.  And the beefsteak and cherry tomatoes are prone to attracting pests.  I sprayed everyone with a semi-organic compound that smells like an Indian restaurant, but that mostly keeps away the bugs.  If I want a home-grown tomato, I have to pick it within a day of noticing the color change.  I've gotten very good at predicting how long it will take them to ripen in a bag.
Day 3
As fruits ripen, they give off ethylene gas.  This makes other fruits want to ripen, which is why clusters of tomatoes tend to turn red at the same time.  If you want to ripen a tomato, pear, banana, plum, avocado, or other fruit that is commonly bought under-ripe, put it in a paper bag and fold it closed.  The ethylene gas becomes concentrated and accelerates the process.  Use a paper bag and not plastic.  Plastic will make moisture collect and rot the fruit.  You also want a little fresh air.  Do not wash the fruit first.  Never wash fruit or vegetables until you're ready to use them.  They last longer because imperfections are less likely to develop mold.  I just wiped the tomatoes with a paper towel and put them in the bag.
Day 4  You can really see the pink of the Bradley
Do check the bag regularly, about once a day.  Once the tomatoes are fully ripened and slightly soft to the touch, you can wash them and slice up the most flavorful, slightly sweet tomato you've ever had.  The bag becomes an ongoing project, like sourdough, as more of your tomatoes start to ripen.  It almost becomes like opening a present, trying to see which ones have magically ripened overnight to grace your salad or other recipe.  The batch I started in the Day 1 photo topped some Ultimate Margherita Pizza.
Day 5  Some old friends, mostly new

No comments:

Post a Comment

I got tired of having to moderate all the spam comments and put back the verification. Sorry if it causes hassles.