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The Positives of a Forced Early Harvest

When the storm warnings went up in Montana on Friday, September 27, I knew that I was going to need to harvest. My biggest concerns were my tomatoes, zucchinis, and eggplants. None are cold-hardy and snow kills the plants. There are positives for a forced early harvest, though.

This year, I only planted 7 tomato plants, 2 eggplants, and four zucchini plants. Three of the tomatoes were cherry or pear tomatoes, so only four of the plants were the type that produces salad tomatoes or slicing tomatoes. All of this is less than a quarter of what I normally plant.

Also unusual, I was so busy with the church flowerbeds this year, I quite neglected my tiny garden, except for keeping it watered. I didn’t mulch around the plants and I did no weeding after early July. Three of the tomato plants were heavily overgrown by my catnip patch, to the point that it was even difficult to see the tomato plants.

I naturally expected to have a small harvest. I definitely didn’t grow the tomatoes properly. That is entirely on me. I didn’t take the time.

I knew that a couple of the plants had a lot of small tomatoes on them, but when I started into full harvest mode, I was stunned. I filled a large wheelbarrow with green tomatoes, plus about 20 ripe ones that had been hidden from view. I’d judge the tomato harvest to be at least 50-70 pounds of tomatoes. 

There were also a half dozen large zucchinis and a few smaller ones, four large cucumbers, and a half-dozen eggplants. I didn’t even get to harvest my green beans. By the time the tomatoes were harvested, my hands were numb with the cold. These aren’t tiny tomatoes, either. Well, a few of them are, but most of the smallest tomatoes were left on the vine. Most of these are the size that is commonly sold at the store or larger.

My birthday is over a week away, but this has the distinct feeling of being an early birthday gift. Since I honestly can’t attribute it to anything that I did, that would mean that it was a gift from God and I’m quite thankful for it. Regardless, I need to take some time today to spread the tomatoes out so they can ripen. 

It strikes me that there are many people who honestly believe that it is too expensive to grow a garden or too labor-intensive. However, I probably spent less than $20 on the garden this year, counting everything, and I sure didn’t put much work into it, yet if I bought the amount of tomatoes I harvested, at the price the store charges, I’d pay between $150 and $210! That is just from the tomatoes and not counting anything else that came out of the garden. The best part is that even though they won’t be vine-ripened, they will still taste better than those that come from the store, once they turn ripe.

Incidentally, we had fried green tomatoes with dinner last night. Yummy.

  • Question of

    What do you think about this unexpectedly large harvest?

    • That is a lot of tomatoes
    • I don’t like tomatoes
    • I still think it is too expensive to grow a garden
    • I wish I could have tomato plants that were that productive
    • I don’t think that is many tomatoes
  • Question of

    Do you like fried green tomatoes?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’ve never tried them


What do you think?

14 Points

Written by Rex Trulove


  1. I am glad you will be able to use your harvest. When we had to save a harvest of tomatoes in Latvia we put them in boxes that had air holes and covered them with newspaper and placed them inside. Then we would check on them and the tomatoes would start to ripen.

    • For many of them, we do the same thing. We often give some to the food bank, too. We aren’t the only ones who like fried green tomatoes. 🙂 Even those that go bad don’t go to waste as our chickens will gladly eat any of the tomatoes that are rotting.

    • I try to do that, but I’m not always successful. The growing season can be so variable that we often end up with a lot more or less than what we’d planned. This was a great year for tomatoes, and I’m thankful I didn’t plant as many as usual, but some years aren’t all that good for the tomato crop.

      There is a good chance that we’ll plant a bigger garden next year. One thing about it, when we have an excess, we know that we can donate it to our food bank. There are a lot of people who aren’t able to have a garden and who love the fresh produce.

    • They can certainly be used that way. They also can be made into relish, the smaller ones can be pickled, and they can be used to make imitation mincemeat for pies. I enjoy fried green tomatoes, but most of them are simply allowed to ripen. I love ripe tomatoes.