The Great Tomato Harvest

The garden season came to a somewhat unceremonious end last week.  Unlike last year, when I took an entire afternoon to carefully pick the last of the tomatoes, plant by plant, sorting tomatoes and meticulously cleaning up the garden from one end to the other, this year was a bit more rushed.  But in the end, we beat the frost (it was a team effort!) and have this to show for it: 
When I say it was a team effort, I'm not kidding.  With only so much daylight left by the time I got home from work on Tuesday, and so many tomatoes left on the vines (on top of the fact that I was going out of town for the rest of the week), I was honestly a little concerned that the tomatoes might not all make it in by the Thursday night frost deadline.  And they wouldn't have made it, if not for my awesome in laws, who came over to give Mike a hand in picking the vast majority of the final tomato harvest while I was 200 miles away.

And boy, do I ever have a tomato harvest in my kitchen right now!  Around this same time last year, I posted this on my Facebook page, jokingly wondering if the size of one's tomato harvest is correlated to one's need for therapy.  
Gardening Bamboo T-Shirt
I'm having similar feelings this year.  Though let's be honest, no matter how crazy it was at the end, I wouldn't have it any other way.  I've already turned about three of those flats into 14 pints of garden salsa.  At the rate the green tomatoes are ripening, there will be a second batch to follow in about a week or two.  It may have been a bit chaotic, but in the long run, it was worth it to harvest every last green tomato off those vines.

Wondering if it's worth your time to bring in your green tomatoes at the end of the season?  Any green tomato that is near full size will almost certainly ripen after it's been picked.  When it comes to the smaller tomatoes, here's an easy way to make the call:
Notice how the tomato on the left has a matte surface and a softer texture?  It is not mature enough to ripen after it's been picked and it will just shrivel up over time.  Compare this to the tomato on the right that has a shiny surface and a smooth texture. The tomato on the right has matured enough that with a little time, it will start to turn color.  After they've been picked, I put my green tomatoes in shallow cardboard flats (paper box covers work really well for this purpose).  A single layer works best, but if you need to double up a bit, just be sure to keep the riper (softer) tomatoes on the top.  I also find it helpful to sort the tomatoes by ripeness, so it's easier to process them as they ripen, without having to sort through each box on a regular basis.