How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

October 9, 2019

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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.  

Ways to Ripen Tomatoes Outdoors

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Learn more about growing and harvesting tomatoes here.

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Green Tomato Recipes

Once frost nips at your garden, you can also gather up all the green tomatoes on the vine and make some these green tomato recipes!

green tomato relish 

green tomato salsa

fried green tomatoes!

green tomato pickles

green tomato pie

Did you know:  Some tomatoes are meant to be green!

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Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

ripen tomatoes

Hello I just lay my green tomatoes out in boxes single layer. I stack the boxes and check them every three days. I keep finding a few starting to ripen and then I put them on the windowsill and let them finish ripening. That works for me

ripening green tomatoes

I agree. My grandmother always laid them stem side down on a cardboard box lid on the floor. Lately my husband brought home some not quite ripe tomatoes from the grocery. I laid them stem side down on the cardboard lid and they are red now,

Green tomatoes

How to keep voles from eating your tomatoes and peppers. Number 2 ... I have had voles reciently. They eat all of my cherry tomatoes off. Should I try to pick my early girl and other large tomatoes off before they get eaten?
They have devistated my ghost peppers send japalanoes to the stem. .... mothers. Please give your suggestions. As I do have all my plants in pots.

critters on your tomatoes

The Editors's picture

That’s a strange one! It seems highly unlikely that voles will be eating the hot peppers since mammals experience the same heat that we do from the capsaicin in the fruits. We’re the only mammal that seems to like the heat! We’ve never heard of voles eating tomato fruits either, although they have been known to chew through tomato plant stems and eat the leaves. But if you’ve seen this with your own eyes, we stand corrected!

Birds will eat hot peppers and other peppers (they can’t sense the capsaicin), and they’ll peck at tomatoes too, so we reckon they are more likely the culprits. It might be worth netting the plants to keep them off, making sure that determined birds can’t get under the netting and become trapped. 

Alternatively, if the remaining tomatoes are starting to ripen (with a blush), just pick them and finish ripening them indoors just to be safe. 

Green tomatoes

When we lived outside town we used to pull all our tomato plants before the first frost and spread them on the barn floor. We checked the plants daily and took off tomatoes as they ripened. Only the really immature ones were lost that way.

Ripen Tomatoes

In the U.S. we ripen them by putting them in a sunny east or west window

Rioening tomatoes

I have always believed that tomatoes ripen in the dark, not in the light. I never put tomatoes on a window sill. When tmeperatures drop, I bring my green tomatoes indoors and place them in a single file in a dark closet in my basement, then cover them with a sheet of newspaper. I check them every few days and takes out the ones that are ripe. One year we were lucky enough to have tomatoes at Thanksgiving, a real treat!

Ripening green to atoes

Enjoyed your video. Just want to know if these methods work with the larger tomatoes or just the cherry or grape size. Thanks

Ripening Tomatoes

The Editors's picture

Yes, these methods should work on all sizes of tomatoes, though larger varieties may take longer to ripen fully.

Ripening tomatoes in Fall

Excellent video on ripening Green tomatoes. However, I am wondering if I should also cut off a lot of the foliage/leaves, along with the new blossoms? In the video, it does appear that there are very few leaves on the plants that bear the fruit to be ripened.

ripening green tomatoes

We just pick them before the first frost, and place them stem-side down on sheets of newspaper in shallow cardboard boxes. I'm guessing that wrapping them would slow down the ripening a bit, so the harvest would last longer.

how to get tomatoes to ripen

This was very helpful to me. I planted San marzano tomatoes and they are huge, but still green.

When to plant fruit and vegetables

Need to know when an how to plant fruits and vegetables

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