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Growing a Tomato that Stores Well into Winter

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Do you dream of growing great winter storage tomato in your home garden?

If you’re anything like me, you pine for a good, garden-fresh, ripe tomato in the mid-winter months. Sure, hothouse tomatoes have come a long way in recent years. And, those grocery store “on-the-vine” winter tomatoes can provide the illusion of garden-fresh. But they just aren’t the same as homegrown tomatoes. That’s why growing our own tomatoes that store well into winter is so enticing!

Winter storage tomatoes long keeper

Long Keeper Tomatoes in December

What’s a great winter storage tomato to grow?

The best winter storage tomato we’ve grown is Long Keeper. But, if you’re going to grow this plant, it’s a good idea to know a bit more about it. That’s because this knowledge will help you plant at the right time and in the right place. So, here are some helpful details:

  • Long Keeper is an indeterminate.
  • Seed packets indicate it takes 82 days to ripen.
  • But, we’ll discuss more on that a little later.

Timing when you seed is part of your key to success…

  • If you intend to store Long Keeper for winter, you may want to seed it later than other tomatoes. That’s because harvesting it later may extend how long it will store.
  • So, if you expect it to take 82 days to harvest, sowing seeds in late May might be ideal. That’s because 82 days later would be sometime in mid-August. However, you might find the plants take longer than 82 days. In fact, when we seeded in late May, we ended up harvesting in October. And the winter storage tomatoes we harvested were only slightly blushed.
  • But that may be a good thing for storage tomatoes. Still, harvesting before October rains & the blights they can inspire is more ideal.
  • So, seeding in March or April may be a better plan.
Cellared Long Keepers in October After Harvest

Cellared Long Keepers in October After Harvest

So, what’s the best way cellar & ripen winter storage tomatoes?

  • Empty canning jar boxes with jar separators are perfect for storing your harvest.
  • Partially this is because the boxes are dry.
  • Better yet, the separators keep the tomatoes from touching.
  • And  touching tomatoes can lead to rot fast.
  • Too, covering the box with a dry cloth helps keep out light.
  • And too much light might ruin your winter storage tomato harvest.
  • Furthermore, place your storage crops in a cooler place like a dry basement cellar.

Don’t forget to monitor your stored fruits.

  • Every few days, check your winter storage tomatoes for any spoilage. That’s because some will likely go bad. And, as the saying goes, “One rotten apple (or tomato) can spoil the lot.”
  • However, more should color up (aka ripen) over time. This is especially true of any tomatoes touching a lot of cardboard edges.
  • As well, it’s important to handle the fruit as little as possible.
  • But, be sure to check all sides of the tomatoes. And rotate their positions periodically. That’s because sometimes one side will look unripe but the other side is actually ripe. And, when that happens, it’s time to eat.
  • In fact, even the hard green ones we’ve stored have become winter-fresh eating tomatoes.

What if you want to grow a plant that fruits all winter?

We have had success growing some tomatoes indoors in winter. And we’ve been fortunate to have them bear fruit as well. Plus we haven’t had to use supplemental light to make this happen. But we have only grown specialty container cherry tomatoes to make this happen.

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