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The End of Tomato Season

September 25th, 2011

At the end of September, about two months after the appearance of the first vine-ripened homegrown tomato of summer the time has come to dismantle the garden before the cover crop is sown. Frost is coming: fermentation and decay are in the air. Plants have fallen down, top heavy, and many tomatoes look like sad sacks, flaccid and drained.

-Amy Goldman (The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit)

Come mid-September, the tomato plants are no longer the stars of the garden. The Vines are starting to look like exhausted from their summer of bounty. I still have a few plants that are nice and green, but the majority of them are looking pretty rough.

Tomatoes don’t taste as well this time of year when the night temperatures start to drop. I have noticed that they’re not as sweet as August tomatoes and the depth of flavor just isn’t there. That’s the main reason I no longer keep the vines around until they are killed by frost.

Today I plan to spend my afternoon clearing out the two rows of tomatoes in the garden. All the green tomatoes will be put in the basement on shelves to ripen slowly. They won’t taste like vine-ripened tomatoes, but they’ll be quite delicious roasted with garlic and olive oil. The ripe ones will be canned into something delicious, most likely my new favorite recipe for them, Roasted Tomato Passata from the The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.

A few years ago I stated pulling them out in mid to late September to make way for cover crops or overwintering crops like garlic or shallots.

When do you clear out your tomato patch?

15 Comments to “The End of Tomato Season”
  1. Jennifer Fisk on September 25, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I’ve already pulled a lot of the dead vines. I still have San Marzano ripening but the Prudens and Moskvich vines are on the burn pile. I have noticed that the flavor of the cherry tomatoes gets less sweet as the sun gets lower in the sky. Usually there are gobs of red orbs hanging off the plant in Sept but don’t have that lovely flavor.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

  2. Deborah on September 25, 2011 at 7:25 am

    I did mine yesterday! It was a bittersweet moment; on the one hand, it was a bit sad to admit that the summer was over, and on the other hand, it felt good! The plot looked instantly better, and I could use the space to put in some bok choy and Japanese turnips.

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  3. goatpod2 on September 25, 2011 at 8:35 am

    We haven’t cleared ours out yet.

    Amy

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  4. Melissa on September 25, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I’ve been thinking about taking my patch down– But I think it will wait a week more b/c I don’t feel like doing it today! So what do you plant in your garden for the winter?
    Melissa´s last post ..Garden Bloggers Bloom Day- Sept 15

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  5. Pearl on September 25, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I got my mine out so late this year because of all the rain. I still have a lot of green tomato’s out there. Picked a few this morning. I’ll try your suggestion to put them downstairs on my shelves.
    One thing I do is as they ripen I core them and freeze them. When I have enough I thaw them, drain off all that watery liquid,cook them and run through my food strainer. It makes a nice thick tomato juice or could be used for sauce.
    Pearl´s last post ..Bubble Pizza

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  6. WendyM on September 25, 2011 at 9:30 am

    In early August I cut the growing tops of my tomato plants and remove any flowers that would not have a chance to develop into a full grown tomato in one month. In about 2 weeks they start ripening and by mid September all the tomatoes are done. This year I was ‘away’ in August and still have some green tomatoes that I picked this weekend to try to ripen indoors. I cleared one bed for strawberries and another bed I am planting garlic and shallots.

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  7. Lisa on September 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I started clearing some determinates and overgrown cherry-type late August, but I pulled my last 3 (of 13) plants yesterday.

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  8. Mist on September 25, 2011 at 10:16 am

    In Florida the end of tomato season was May and I always hated taking them down but I knew it was best. Since we are in Texas now we haven’t quite figured out when we will be planting ours since we do get freezes and the heat is too much for tomatoes in the summer. We have a narrow window in spring and fall. I feel like Fall tomatoes might do better. We’ll see next year!

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  9. Alyssa on September 25, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I took mine out a week ago, they weren’t the happiest tomatoes. They were in containers though, which makes all the difference.
    Alyssa´s last post ..September Movie Nights

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  10. kathi cookk on September 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    I removed mine right after hurricane Irene visited Ct. My tomatoes are always so sad looking it’s not hard to rip them out,however I always hate to tear out my broccoli,peppers and eggplant which look wonderful but are not going to produce any more. Always my eggplant set tons of blooms in late September. I let all my basil go to flower and the bees are loving it.

    Reply to kathi cookk's comment

    • Jennifer Fisk on September 26, 2011 at 6:32 am

      Are you sure your broccoli won’t produce nice side shoots? I just picked a plastic bag full yesterday. They are so flavorful and tender.

      Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

  11. MAYBELLINE on September 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    HA. I did it today too!
    MAYBELLINE´s last post ..Don’t Bug Me

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  12. KimH on September 25, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I’ll be leaving mine another week or two at least. I do want to remove them & the spaghetti squash that is mixed in with them and put garlic & greens in there. I need to get a move on, I think. ;)

    Reply to KimH's comment

  13. Janet on September 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Ours will be out soon as we have to clear the greenhouse (too cold to have them outside here) ready to overwinter pot plants. The end of a good crop if not a glorious season.

    Reply to Janet's comment

  14. Matt@Underwater Photographer on November 11, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Here in Philippines its not really a problem planting tomatoes. We are blessed with the perfect weather.
    Matt@Underwater Photographer´s last post ..Stone Money and Palms, Yap Micronesia by Matt Considine

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