Red, juicy, and full of flavor, tomatoes are a gardener’s favorite when it comes to a choice of fruit and vegetable to grow. They make an excellent addition to salads, sauces, or even eaten freshly picked as a healthy snack.
But how do gardeners know when is the right time to pick their tomatoes?
Tomatoes, like many fruits, need to ripen before they are ready to be eaten. Tomatoes start off green and then will often change yellow, orange, browns, and finally red, depending upon the variety.
Ripening green tomatoes however isn’t as simple as it sounds. Leave them on the vine to ripen, and you risk wildlife and insects getting to your fruit first. Pick them too early, and your tomatoes might end up rotting.
If you want to know how to ripen green tomatoes, and how to turn your green tomatoes red, then keep on reading. This post will take you through some of the best ways to ripen green tomatoes so you can be sure to eat your tomatoes at their best.
How Do Tomatoes Ripen?
Before we consider the best ways to ripen green tomatoes, we need to understand how tomatoes ripen in the first place.
Fruits are usually placed into two categories:
Climacteric fruits will continue ripening even after they have been picked. They produce a hormone called ethylene which is a gas that helps the fruit to continue to ripen. Bananas, pears, mangoes, avocados, and tomatoes are all types of climacteric fruit.
Non-climacteric fruits include cherries, watermelon, citrus fruits, and strawberries. These do not produce ethylene and do not continue to ripen once they are picked.
As tomatoes are a type of climacteric fruit, they release ethylene gas even after they have been picked. What is important is ensuring you pick your tomatoes at the right time so that they continue to ripen rather than rot.
When checking which tomatoes to pick to help ripen indoors away from wildlife, ensure to take into account a tomatoes’ maturity. If a tomato isn’t mature, it will not ripen.
Choose an average-sized green tomato from your plants and cut it in half. If the jelly surrounding the seeds is loose, then the tomatoes this size or larger are ready to harvest. If the jelly is firm, your tomatoes aren’t quite ready to be picked.
Another top tip for ripening green tomatoes is to ensure to leave some of the stems when cutting them. When cutting too close to the tomatoes, it leaves an open wound and makes your tomatoes prone to diseases. If possible, cut your tomatoes with clean, sharp shears leaving some of the stems to minimize the risk of infection.
4 Best Ways to Ripen Green Tomatoes
Once you have selected the green tomatoes, it is then best to take them indoors to ripen. Tomatoes like warmth and will ripen quicker in warmer conditions. However, if they gain too much sunlight and it’s too hot, they will stop ripening so it is best to keep them away from windowsills.
So how do you ensure your green tomatoes will continue to ripen indoors when taken off the vine?
Here are 4 ways to ripen green tomatoes:
Use a Paper Bag
Now I know you are thinking ‘A paper bag…. What will that do?’ but bear with me here. By placing your green tomatoes inside a paper bag and sealing the top, you are encouraging them to ripen.
A sealed paper bag will prevent any of the ethylene gas released from the tomatoes to escape. So the bag traps the gas and intensifies the effect. Hence your tomatoes will ripen quicker than if left out on your kitchen side.
Just remember to keep checking the tomatoes within the paper bag as this process can take just 1-2 weeks. Be sure to remove the ripened tomatoes from the rest otherwise, they will start to rot.
Use a Cardboard Box
Similar to the method above, but better!
Instead of using a paper bag, a cardboard box is a good alternative due to being larger and offering more space.
Tomato plants give out moisture that can lead to mold if they are near one another.
So by placing them in a cardboard box, not only are you enhancing the effect of ethylene gas but are also able to space out your tomatoes to limit moisture build-up and mold.
I don’t know about you, but my bananas are the first fruit to ripen once I have completed my weekly shop. They are a fast ripening fruit and hence release a lot of ethylene gas.
Have you ever placed your bananas in the fruit bowl with your apples and pears, only for the rest of your fruit to suddenly ripen and need eating before it goes off?
That’s the ethylene from the bananas at work!
By placing a banana next to your tomatoes, it will help your tomatoes to ripen a lot faster. If you would like to ripen green tomatoes quickly, I would even suggest placing the tomatoes and banana within a sealed paper bag or cardboard box for maximum effect.
Hanging Upside Down
This method works best if your tomatoes are still attached to part of the vine. The idea behind this is that by hanging the full plant upside down, the energy from the plant will be directed towards the tomatoes.
Plus, as the tomatoes aren’t placed in a bag or fruit bowl with limited space, they will have access to good airflow. Airflow is important for keeping tomatoes fresh, healthy, and less susceptible to mold.
Another benefit of the hanging upside down method or ripening green tomatoes is that your delicate tomatoes are not placed on your hard work surface. This can lead to bruising and skin breakages.
Ripening Tomatoes is Easy
Tomatoes are easy to grow but do require time to maintain and are best ripened indoors to avoid pests and wildlife consuming them before you do.
By selecting at least one of the above 4 ways to ripen green tomatoes, you will have delicious, fresh tomatoes in 1-2 weeks.
Ripening tomatoes indoors does not impact their taste, but you can limit the impact of weather and temperature changes, mold, and disease.
Controlling the environment you ripen green tomatoes will help to increase the number of tomatoes ripened and suitable for consumption. So you can enjoy those sweet, juicy, and crisp tomatoes you’ve worked so hard to grow.
Have you ripened your green tomatoes indoors using one of the above methods?
For more support with growing tomatoes, check out the following guides: