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Window tomatoes

Gardening, it turns out, happens everywhere, I’ve mentioned this before. I’m surprised to what extent it’s been happening in the kitchen, although perhaps I shouldn’t be: when it comes to gardening, I’m mostly interested in it as a means to supplying the kitchen. So the garden and the kitchen are closely connected in the ramshackle villa that is my mental landscape. I have a compost bin in the kitchen (I mean, not a full-fledged, bug-rich one, just a scraps bucket that acts as a compost satellite until I get around to finding shoes and taking it out to the compost proper), and I harvest seeds in the kitchen: now fruition! Kitchen fruition.

Tomatoes in waiting

Today we finished daylight savings. This is about the time of year everyone starts commenting on the days getting shorter, the nights being colder, the need to rug up being upon us, complaining about the early sunsets and so on. (Harden up, people.) To observe this sacred changing of the seasons, I picked all the fat tomatoes still on the plants and brought them inside to ripen on the windowsill. I wouldn’t have thought this would work, but we’ve already reddened four this way and I’m impressed.

Why does this work?

Not sure. To be honest, I had visions of thoroughly researching the matter, pondering and presenting results in a clear and concise way, blowing your mind and mine. I got as far as finding out that as tomatoes ripen, they release ethylene, which can prompt other fruit to ripen — it’s the same stuff bananas release, which is why you get told to shack up unripe fruit with bananas to move things along. Bananas apparently release it in fairly startling proportions. I also learnt that the final ripening stage is called, rather sexily, the climacteric event. There was some other stuff about cell respiration and conversion of sugars and nutrients and such, but it was a bit over my head. I gather that the ripening phase helps make fruit more palatable by adjusting the sugars and acids available and making the flesh softer, an extremely valuable evolutionary step for plants that rely on critters eating them for seed distribution.

Here’s my less scientific justification for bringing them in to ripen on the windowsill: tomatoes need warmth to ripen and there is slightly less of that around at the moment, even in the sunny corner next to the compost bin. So they’re cooler, and, by extension, damper, and that makes them more vulnerable to slugs and snails and puppydogs’ tails and other tomato-lovin’, dim-dwellin’ varmints. On the dry, sunny windowsill, protected by Basil’s watchful gaze, they can carry on their normal process in security and warmth. I’m not speeding up the ripening process, just ensuring that they’re free from bugs, birds and the occasional hungry dog while they proceed at a normal pace. I’m a garden hero.

There are still some smaller tomatoes on the plants, but while they’re still growing, they need to be attached to the plant: that’s how they get all their nutrients and water. Once they’re ready, they’ll join their mature cousins here on the windowsill. Hooray for tomatoes into autumn!

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