Frost and Tomatoes

Getting an unexpected frost can be a sad thing if you have tomatoes out in the garden. Sometimes trying to cover them up just doesn’t work.

So what do you do when life hands you frosted tomatoes?

Know Your Zone

Do you know what USDA plant hardiness zone you live in?  It gives you an idea of the kinds of plants you can easily (at least relatively easy) grow.  If you don’t know, check out this interactive USDA zone map.

Alas, even when you know your zone (example, I am in 10a), you can still get unexpected frosts and freezes, which can wreak havoc on your tomato plants!  Unfortunately, I got a freeze last week and totally lost 3 of the plants.  Three pretty much survived and one is iffy.

So what happens when you have a freeze, your plants die but you still have green tomatoes on them?  My favorite recipe is green tomato pie — very yummy.

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough green tomatoes to make that pie.  But fortunately, the three plants that did survive all have some tomatoes.  Not sure why they survived when the others didn’t, but I am grateful.


Fortunately the weather has warmed up and I seriously doubt we will be getting another frost/freeze this winter.  I have some seedlings that went out in the garden yesterday — they were getting awfully big on the windowsill.  And I still have more that I am hardening off — including the three plants for The Great Tomato Experiment.

Maybe the moral of this story is to have “back-up” plants if you get an unexpected freeze after you’ve put your tomato plants out in the garden.  Seedlings that you started a couple weeks later, maybe.  That way if the worst happens and you lose most of your crop, then at least you’ll have a few to restart.


3 Responses to “Frost and Tomatoes”

  • Chester:

    I have looked everywhere online about what to do with green tomatoes AFTER a first frost hits in the fall, but all I get is how to cook green tomatoes.

    My question is this:

    Will any of the green tomatoes go ahead and ripen if stored indoors, AFTER a frost?

    I would like to have sliced fresh tomatoes into the winter as long as possible, but was hit last night with an unexpected first frost of the season.

    Thank you,

  • Gail:

    Hi Chester,

    Green tomato pie is yummy, but there’s only so much you can eat if it. 🙂

    So, if your tomatoes were at least in the turning stage (not still all green but starting to turn, even if it’s not their final color), then yes, you can bring them inside and let them ripen.

    First, check over the tomatoes and discard (or make into fried green tomatoes or green tomato pie) and that have a blemish.

    Take some newspaper and line a box. Nestle each tomato into its own sheet of newspaper and put them in the box. Then put the box in a cool place (around 65 degrees is ideal).

    You’ll probably lose some of the tomatoes to decay, but most should end up ripening fine.

    Just remember — a tomato ripened this way won’t be like one that ripened on the vine. But it should still probably taste better than a store-bought!

  • Gail:

    Hi Heather,

    I don’t know about making you sick, but I doubt they would taste very good. Once they have frozen, they won’t continue to ripen, and the texture of the tomato “meat” will have changed.

    On the other hand, if your plant is still alive and there are tomatoes there that were not frozen, then those will be fine to eat. You might want to pick any of those and bring them inside to ripen.

    Best wishes!


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