Learning how to ripen green tomatoes is a vital part of growing the fruit. Whether you are growing small cherry tomatoes or large beef toms, it is a useful skill to have.
Allowing fruit to mature on the vine often results in better tasting produce that has a deeper, richer color. However, there are a number of reasons why you may need to ripen your fruit away from the vine. For example, being able to pick green fruit and ripen it off the vine helps to prevent your plants from becoming overcrowded and the fruit remaining on the vine from rotting.
It is also a useful way to prevent waste. As the growing season comes to an end and temperatures begin to fall you may find yourself with lots of immature fruit that isn’t going to ripen in time. Instead of letting the crop go to waste, learning how to ripen green tomatoes enables you to enjoy more of your fruit for longer.
If you want to learn how to ripen green tomatoes, this guide is for you.
Learning how to artificially mature immature fruit is a beneficial skill that helps you to make the most of your fruit yield.
What Makes Tomatoes Ripen?
Before we start looking at how to ripen green tomatoes, it is useful to briefly look at the maturing process and what affects it.
A sunny windowsill, despite popular belief, is not the best place to put your green tomatoes if you want them to mature. Watch how the fruit matures on the vine. You will notice that the fruit starts to mature on the opposite side to the sun. This reveals that while light may help, it isn’t the key ingredient for ripening fruit.
In fact, temperature is far more important in the process. The warmer the temperatures the quicker the maturing process.
In warm temperatures, those that average between 65 and 70 ℉ it can take fruit about 2 weeks to mature. If you want to slow down the process, simply place the fruit in a cooler location. Dropping the average temperature around your fruit down to about 50 to 60 ℉ extends the length of time it takes them to ripen by another 2 weeks. A digital thermometer, such as the ThermoPro TP50 Digital Thermometer, provides an easy to use way to monitor temperatures around your maturing fruit.
Fruit matures more quickly in warm temperatures.
Storing harvests at different temperatures allows you to stagger the maturing time. This enables you to enjoy your fresh fruit harvest for even longer. If you are storing fruit at different temperatures, don’t store any in conditions lower than 10 ℉ and definitely don’t place them in the refrigerator. Storing fruit in temperatures that are too cold can damage its quality and ruin the flavor.
The hormone ethylene also speeds up the maturing process. This is naturally produced by many different fruits. Some of the heaviest ethylene producers include:
Placing fruit close to any of these fruits is an easy, natural way to speed up the maturing process.
How to Select Which Green Tomatoes to Ripen
The best results usually come with fruit that is already taking on a yellow-orange tinge. This color change means that the fruit is already beginning to mature. The methods outlined here work equally well on semi-mature and completely immature fruit. Just remember that green fruit takes longer to mature and may not be as flavorsome.
As summer draws to a close and the temperatures begin to fall, remove any remaining flowers from the plant. These won’t have the time to develop mature fruit. Allowing them to remain in place wastes the plants remaining energy. Instead, by removing these flowers, the plant is encouraged to direct its energy into helping the existing fruit turn red and mature.
You can also cut away the top of the plant and any excess foliage. This helps the light and heat to reach your ripening fruit.
When harvesting don’t pick the fruit from the plant. Instead use a small garden scissors to cut it away from the plant. Tomatoes ripen best if a little part of the stem is left on the fruit. Inspect the fruit as you harvest it and discard damaged specimens. Be careful when harvesting and storing not to bruise or damage the fruit. Damaged fruit can spoil during storage, potentially ruining a harvest.
Select only the healthiest specimens. Bruised or damaged fruit is likely to spoil and, if left unnoticed, can ruin the entire crop.
When storing your fruit, don’t pile them all on top of each other. Allow each tomato a little room so that air can circulate freely around the fruit. This helps to prevent mold.
Remember to regularly check your fruit and discard any that are showing signs of spoiling.
How to Ripen Green Tomatoes
Line your box with newspaper. Lay the immature fruit out in a single layer, ensuring there is a little space between them. You can also loosely wrap each individual tomato in a sheet of newspaper, but this is not strictly necessary. Cover the fruit with a sheet of newspaper and place in a quiet, warm position.
You can also lay the fruit out in an empty wooden drawer, fruit bowl or a paper bag. If you are using a paper bag, try to limit the amount of fruit you put in each bag. Depending on the size of the bag and the fruit, place between 5 and 10 toms in each bag.
Remember to check the fruit daily for signs of spoiling. Remove any ripe fruit and allow the others to continue maturing. Fruit that is almost ripe can be placed on a warm windowsill. If you want to further speed up the process, add a banana or apple into the box.
Some people recommend maturing immature fruit in a large glass jar. However, I would avoid this method. Moisture can easily accumulate in the jar and cause your fruit to spoil.
How to Ripen an Entire Plant
This alternative method is just as reliable as harvesting fruit and allowing them to mature individually. At the end of the growing season, just before the first predicted frost date, lift the entire plant from the soil.
Hang the plant upside down in an unheated garage or cellar where temperatures remain above freezing. This enables the fruit to continue maturing on the vine. Many growers prefer this method because it often produces better, more flavor filled fruit than other methods.
Maturing fruit off the vine helps to reduce waste and allows you to enjoy your homegrown fruit for longer.
Finally, don’t let any fruit that you can’t mature go to waste. Any remaining green toms can be turned into a delicious green tomato chutney.
Learning how to ripen green tomatoes is a vital part of knowing how to grow tomatoes. Not only does it help to prevent waste it also enables you to make the most of your yield. Allowing you to enjoy the fruits of your garden for even longer.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.