My tomatoes are just ripening and I'm leaving town for two weeks!
It has taken a ridiculously long time for my tomatoes to finally get ripe. Finally, I've got a number of them in "orange" stage, and of course, I'm about to leave town for a two-week trip. I want to be able to eat these tomatoes when I get back and not have the squirrels steal them. What's my best strategy? Pick 'em now and put them in the fridge? Leave them on the plants and hope for the best? Pick them and leave them on the counterop (I'm afraid I'd come back to a heap of rotting fruit in that case)?
Don't put them in the fridge. It messes with the taste and texture.
My feeling is to leave them on the vine however you said that squirrels may get at them so I if you want to be safe, pick them and leave them where they can get some sunlight.
If you do leave them, be prepared to have a lot and pick them right away.
You may also want to experiment. Pick half and see how it goes.
Do you have a friend that could come water and check on them for you? That's what I've had to do in the past. The trade-off was she got some of the tomatoes. Mine are just now starting to ripen as well.
I threw a mess of green-to-orange tomatoes in a brown paper bag and left them on the countertop (out of the sunlight - they will wrinkle up otherwise). They ripen slowly. You may lose some to rot in two weeks, but plenty of them are bound to be fine. Disregard anyone who tells you to put a banana or an apple in the bag. It makes no difference, and wastes a banana. I have tried it both ways. Tomatoes give off their own ethylene.
This was my source:
Because of various animals biting into my tomatoes this year, I've been picking them once they got to the 'orange' stage and left them to ripen inside the house at room temperature. The tomatoes do ripen to red and taste fine, not great but it's been a terrible year for tomatoes where I live. Unless your house is very warm while you're gone, two weeks should be not a problem. If fruit flies are a problem, put a fine mesh colander over them. They should be red when you get back.
I would leave them on the vine, take the vines off the plant and bring them inside to a cool, dark place. Basements are great places to hang tomatoes. I know lots of old and long time gardeners and this is what they all do.
It took me a while to let go of the "must keep them in the sun" idea but if you leave them on the plant, they could be attacked by pests, if you clip them off the plant, the sun could cause them to go off. Think of it like an avocado, like the other person posted about the paper bag.
The other suggestion is to hang them from the wall with string and tacks rather than let them sit on the fruit. If you don't want to stick tacks in the wall, set them upside down so the vine is touching the counter (or whatever you rest them on) rather than the fruit.
This is the link to where I got my info. I know these people and have had great success using this method:
This sounds very interesting and I wish you'd posted it before I left the country! The problem I had with leaving the tomatoes on the counter is that my house is currently on the market, and I have prospective buyers trooping through while I am away. I don't think a pile of soggy tomatoes would be a seling point :-). So I just left them all out on the plants. I hope the squirrels leave me one or two.