Tomatoes are known for their juicy red fruits. This is the most common plant grown in home vegetable gardens, and for a good reason.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, like when a common disease hits your tomato plants.
Other times your tomato plants struggle with the weather and do not ripen as they should. You can make the most of your garden with a bit of planning even when things go wrong.
Tomatoes not turning red is a common garden problem that is easier to fix than people realize. Take some time to learn what makes tomatoes turn red and how to help them when things don’t work the way they should.
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What Makes a Tomato Turn Red?
To fully understand why your tomatoes are not turning red, you need to know what makes tomatoes turn red in the first place.
The ethylene chemical is responsible for the red coloring of tomatoes. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless and is not visible to the naked eye. The tomato produces ethylene when it reaches the proper green maturation stage.
When the lycopene and carotene in the tomato fruit interact with ethylene, the tomato starts to ripen and turn red as the pigments activate.
Why Your Tomatoes Are Not Turning Red
There are several reasons your tomatoes may not be ripening and turning red. Some of these can be easily fixed, while others may take some creativity or require you to remove the fruit from the vine.
It’s too hot out
To create lycopene and carotene your tomatoes need to be cool. If your outside temperatures are over 95 degrees, your tomatoes will not ripen. This can be as simple as waiting out the heatwave.
If it is not extremely hot out and your tomatoes are still struggling to ripen, you can try shade cloth to help bring down their temperature so they can ripen.
This red pigment is one of the most valuable parts of a tomato and the base of many of its health benefits.
It is too windy
While you may not think that the wind affects your tomatoes much besides blowing over poorly supported plants, the wind can play a significant role in your tomatoes’ ripening.
If it is too windy for too long, the ethylene gas released by your tomatoes will be blown away by the wind and can leave your tomatoes green.
To fix this issue, you can choose to pull your tomatoes from the vines to ripen indoors or opt to create a wind block around your tomato plants to help allow the tomatoes to ripen on the vine.
It’s too cold out
At the end of the season, your tomatoes may keep producing for quite a while before hard freezes choke them out.
When this happens, the temperatures around your tomatoes may remain far too low to encourage your tomatoes to ripen. Lycopene is vital to the ripening process and needs all the help it can get after the weather turns cold.
You can extend your tomato gardening season by using a pop-up greenhouse to help trap heat and keep your plants warmer so your tomatoes can ripen.
How to Ripen Green Tomatoes
While the above tips can help you ripen your tomatoes on the vines, you have other options for getting lovely ripe tomatoes.
Removing your tomatoes from the vines and ripening them indoors is a great way to help protect your crop or speed up the ripening process a little.
If you have a hard freeze coming your way, you can help get the most of your harvest by running out and picking the large tomatoes that are ready to ripen to protect them.
Take them inside and leave them in a sunny window or even on your kitchen counter to turn red. This is a simple way to help them turn red a bit at a time and not have an overwhelming harvest of tomatoes you need to use.
If you need tomatoes soon, you can speed up the ripening process, place your green tomatoes into a paper bag, and close it. Leave these in a warm space overnight and enjoy your fresh ripe tomatoes the next day. Check out more ways to ripen green tomatoes.
How to Use Green Tomatoes
Sometimes even your best efforts do not turn your tomatoes red. This can happen if you had to harvest them from your plants before a hard freeze, and they were not quite big enough to have everything they need to ripen.
If this happens, there is no reason to stress out. Green tomatoes make a great addition to salads.
Green tomatoes are the main ingredient of the ever-popular southern dish fried green tomatoes. You can give this a try, and if you like it, you may even decide to plant tomatoes that stay green.
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