When temperatures begin to drop, tomatoes stop ripening, so it’s time to take action! We will show you how to ripen your green tomatoes both on and off the vine—and also when it’s your cue to remove those tomatoes from the vine.
There’s nothing better tasting than a vine-ripened tomato. Unripe green tomatoes can still be eaten, but the tomato reaches its natural peak when it’s left to reach a deep vibrant color on the plant.
How to Ripen Tomatoes Outdoors
- If you still have time to ripen tomatoes outdoors before frost, start by pinching out any tiny fruits and flowers so that your plants can now concentrate on the larger fruits that remain.
- Gradually reduce the amount of water you give to the tomato plant in order to create consistently dry conditions which will encourage plants to ripen their remaining fruits.
When to Remove Tomatoes From the Vine
- Tomatoes stop ripening below 50 degrees F. When daytime temperatures struggle to get higher, this is your cue to harvest all remaining tomatoes.
- Of course, they must be brought inside before frost hits. See your average fall frost dates.
- You should also harvest tomatoes if you spot signs of late blight on the stems. If the blight hasn’t gone into the fruits themselves, you should be able to salvage most of your tomatoes.
- As long as any green tomatoes show a first blush at the blossom end of the fruit, they should ripen off the stem. See tips on the best ways to ripen indoors.
4 Ways to Ripen Tomatoes Indoors
Daylight isn’t the most important requirement for ripening. In fact, tomatoes often start to ripen on the opposite side of the fruit to the sunny side. This is why placing tomatoes on a counter where it’s cooler slows down ripening.
What tomatoes do require for ripening is warmth. Tomatoes taste better when left to ripen on the vine so leave them as long as possible.
However, a factor that speeds up ripening is a gas called ethylene. Ethylene is actually naturally released by ripening fruits such as bananas, apples and tomatoes. So, placing a ripe banana or apple in with some green tomatoes in an enclosed space helps to speed up the ripening process.
- In a cardboard box: Line the box with newspaper (or use fruit cardboard if it came from a grocery store) and place the green tomatoes on top in a single layer with a little space between each. Cover with another single layer of newspaper and leave somewhere warm. Check regularly. Another variation of this method is to place the tomatoes in a wooden drawer although you would be lucky to find a spare drawer in my house!
- In a paper bag: Put 5 to10 tomatoes in a paper bag with a ripening banana, apple or tomato and leave in a warm place. Periodically open it up to check for any that show signs of mould or rotting.
- Large glass jars or plastic bags: Another way to concentrate the effect of ethylene involves placing 2 to 4 large tomatoes in a jar or bag along with a ripening fruit and then sealing it. However, the combination of moisture and warmth can encourage mould so it is usually best to put holes in the bag or regularly open and check the jar.
- Hang up the whole plant: Useful at the end of the season when a frost is forecast, the whole tomato plant can be gently pulled up and then hung upside down in a garage or cellar where temperatures will remain above freezing. This is said to produce better flavoured tomatoes than the other methods.
Of course, you may also want to save some green tomatoes to make green tomato recipes—from fried green tomatoes to salsa to green tomato pie.