- How to Ripen Green Tomatoes in September
- Ripening Tomatoes on the Vine
- When to Stop Feeding Your Tomato Plants
- Ripening Tomatoes Off the Vine
- Ripen Tomatoes Out of Direct Sunlight
- Will All Green Tomatoes Ripen?
- Ripening Green Tomatoes In a Brown Paper Bag
- Pruning Peppers and Other Plants to Increase Abundance
- When Life Gives You Green Tomatoes…
- Cleaning Up Your Tomatoes for Next Season
- To pick or not to pick?
- Protect and survive
- Anywhere but the fridge
- And for next year? Think storage tomatoes…
- …Or just grow green tomatoes on purpose
- Green Tomatoes
- Harvesting Green Tomatoes
- Tomato Jokes and Riddles
- Before you leave …
- How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors
- Picking and Storage Tips for Tomatoes
- How Not to Ripen Tomatoes
How to Ripen Green Tomatoes in September
september tomatoes Sep 07, 2018
This day always comes: It’s early September and green tomatoes abound.
So much green fruit, heavy on the vines.
This fruit would most likely not ripen before frost.
With a little foresight and a bit of effort, you’ll ripen more tomatoes than you otherwise might. Photo credit: Markus Spiske.
I’m honored to share our strategies to encourage our tomatoes to ripen at the end of the season, how to enjoy your green tomatoes in the kitchen as well as set you up for success for next season.
Ripening Tomatoes on the Vine
Give them a trim!
With scissors, garden shears or large pruners, trim your vines all the way back to the green fruit. Six weeks before first frost is your optimum window to maximize your harvest. Suddenly, your plants will:
⭐️ focus their energy on ripening fruit rather than continuing to blossom
⭐️ invite more light into depths of the plant helping fruit ripen, as well as
⭐️ experience greater airflow, which discourages the spread of disease.
Trimming your tomato foliage is the single best thing you can do to ripen more tomatoes this season.
Scissors, garden shears and large pruners are all great tools to trim your tomatoes.
When to Stop Feeding Your Tomato Plants
As a general rule, resist feeding your plants any additional nutrients (like compost tea or fish emulsion) once they begin to senesce, or die back. This is true for many plants in many seasons. For example, when your snap peas begin to yellow and die back in late June, stop feeding them. Once your tomatoes begin to yellow and die back, stop feeding them. We pre-emptively stop feeding our tomatoes in late August. You can also cut back or entirely stop watering your plants as they begin to senesce, as well.
Here in the Finger Lakes of New York, in Zone 5, we stop feeding our tomatoes by late August. Photo credit: Markus Spiske.
Ripening Tomatoes Off the Vine
Much of a tomato’s flavor is acquired in the final days of ripening, so only ripen tomatoes off the vine as an absolute last resort.
If you have more than a few dozen fruit or a handful of plants, cut your tomato stems at their base and hang them in a warm (over 60 F is best) place out of direct sunlight. Your garage or basement may be perfect! They’ll continue to ripen and become more flavorful for being left on the vine.
If you’re ripening a red variety, expect your pink fruits to turn red and your green fruits to turn more pink-red. For varieties with other colors, expect similar color saturations for relative ripeness.
If you’re ripening a red variety, expect your pink fruits to turn red and your green fruits to turn a lighter pink-red.
Ripen Tomatoes Out of Direct Sunlight
It’s counter-intuitive, but YES!
Tomatoes ripen from the inside out, even off the vine. If your tomatoes are exposed to direct sunlight, they will turn red quicker, but their core and overall flavor won’t have the same richness. Ripen your green tomatoes in the darkest space that still is easy for you to manage.
Will All Green Tomatoes Ripen?
Many tomatoes will ripen to a great extent. The youngest, most dense fruits will ripen least.
And Friends, I find some varieties are more worthwhile than others to ripen.
For example, I tend to focus on ripening our green slicers and roma-style tomatoes, while turning the green cherries into the compost. I find their flavor and texture more satisfying, especially for the time invested in trying to ripen them.
There are actually varieties that have been selected to ripen well when picked green. I haven’t explored these much. If you do, please let me know what you learn 🙂
I tend to turn the cherries into the compost, focusing on ripening the slicers and romas instead. Photo credit: Dan Gold.
Ripening Green Tomatoes In a Brown Paper Bag
If you have a few dozen green tomatoes or less, consider ripening them in a brown paper bag. Adding an apple to each bag will release ethylene, a naturally occurring gas that encourages ripening in many fruits, including tomatoes. Be forewarned: ethylene will help green tomatoes turn soft and red, but it does not develop sugars. So yes, you’ll have ‘fresh’ tomatoes for weeks if not months after frost, but don’t expect the same vine-ripened sweetness of homegrown tomatoes. That being said, they’ll be magnitudes more delicious than most tomatoes in a grocery store.
Pruning Peppers and Other Plants to Increase Abundance
Many fruiting crops can be coaxed into focusing on ripening fruit in fall. Six weeks before last frost is your optimum window to maximize your harvest.
Prune back your tomatillos and ground cherries as you would tomatoes, removing branches and leaves as well as flowers.
Peppers and eggplants need all the leaves they have to ripen their fruit, so leave your garden shears in the shed. Simply pluck off their flowers and voila! You’ll likely harvest much more fruit as a result.
If you notice winter squash still producing little green fruit, harvest their young, tender fruits and enjoy them as zucchini.
Six weeks before frost, pluck your pepper and eggplant flowers to help ripen more fruit, leaving their leaves to photosynthesize more sugars. Photo credit: Martin Adams.
When Life Gives You Green Tomatoes…
Make fried green tomatoes!
My dear friend Leah makes fried green tomatoes for breakfast all summer long. She simply cannot wait to enjoy them after frost, when most people finally make them. I confess I resisted until she made fresh garlic aoili to dip them in 🙂
I’ve also relished green tomato mincemeat and sumptuous chutneys that will help you forget that you miss your red, soft tomatoes.
Fried green tomatoes with garlic aoili is an ideal way to celebrate, the end of tomato season. Photo credit: Monika Grabkowska
Cleaning Up Your Tomatoes for Next Season
Oh, Friends. This is perhaps the hardest part of growing tomatoes: Admitting the end has come. Cleaning up well is just as important as caring for your seedlings. I beg you, take the time. Your efforts will be rewarded with the ease and lack of disease in your gardens to come.
To button up your tomatoes for the season:
– Pull up all your tomato plants, including as much of the roots as are easily pulled.
– If your plants are not diseased, feel free to turn them into your compost. Ideally, chop the large stems a bit to help them decompose quicker.
– If your plants are diseased, wrangle them into large plastic bags and, as much as I cringe to say, send them to the landfill. If you’re not sure, err on the side sending them off. The last thing you want to do is inoculate your tomatoes next season. Here is more about identifying and managing tomato disease organically.
– Pull up your stakes, removing any twine you used for trellising. Rinse them with water (using the jet setting on your hose sprayer is the dream) and then give them a quick rinse/spray of dilute white vinegar. If we have a lot of disease on our tomatoes, we dunk our stakes in a dilute bleach solution.
One final note:
Each season I learn things I wish I had known days, months and often years ago. My hope in sharing it all with you is to save you time, heartache and money as you grow the garden of your dreams.
Ask questions. Look for patterns. Laugh as you learn! And know you are not alone.
Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,
What are your favorite strategies for ripening tomatoes and enjoying your green tomatoes? I’d love to know!
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- Bring the whole plant indoors: If you still have green tomatoes well into the cool days of fall, you can lift the entire plant and hang it in a dry, sheltered location, like the garage. The fruits will continue to ripen and will still have some of the benefits of ripening on the vine. Try and take some roots with the plant, but you can shake off any soil. You do not want to hang the plants in direct sunlight or total darkness.
- Bring individual tomatoes fruits indoors: You can also go the old tried and true route of picking the more mature green fruits and ripening them in the house. The tomatoes that will have the best chance of ripening will have a tinge of color at their blossom end and feel a little softer than the solid young fruits. Options for ripening green tomatoes indoors include:
- Place your tomatoes on a sunny windowsill: This is a hit or miss solution. You’ll have much better luck ripening tomatoes that already have a fair amount of color. Although the tomatoes are more stable sitting on their stem side, they will rot less readily if you can place them blossom side down.
- Wrap individual green tomatoes in newspaper: Layering wrapped tomatoes in a box, no more than 2 layers deep. Place the box in a dark, dry spot and check weekly for progress. It usually takes 3-4 weeks for the tomatoes to ripen, but check frequently and remove any fruits that show signs of rotting.
- Placing green tomatoes in a paper bag with a ripe apple: The apple gives off ethylene gas, which speeds up ripening. Check the bag daily.
Wondering how to ripen green tomatoes and when to eat them? Here are some of my best tips for making the most of your tomato harvest.
Harvest, Ripen & Eat Green Tomatoes
At the end of every summer season, there’s usually at least one last tomato standing and it’s most likely green. To make the most of your summer harvest, I suggest 3 things:
- Harvest green tomatoes before your first frost. Keep watch on the weather and pick them before temperatures drop or rains set in.
- Ripen green tomatoes indoors, especially if they’re already showing signs of vine ripening. (See the diagram below.)
- Preserve, pickle or cook with green tomatoes, especially the ones that are intensely green and not showing signs of maturation.
Harvest Green Tomatoes
Gather green tomatoes as you would vine-ripened tomatoes. You may need clippers to make the job easier or simply twist the tomato at the stem to remove from the vine.
Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors
There’s more than one way to ripen green tomatoes indoors. In general, to force the ripening process, place tomatoes in a warm, semi-humid environment that is out of direct sunlight. The warmer the environment the faster your tomatoes will ripen and vice versa, however, they ripen best when temperatures range from 55 to 75 degrees F.
I generally store green tomatoes in a paper bag out of the sun on my kitchen counter and ignore them for a while. Somehow they always surprise me, especially when I find myself wondering: what’s in this paper bag sitting on the counter? Inside I typically find a pile of red, ripe tomatoes!
Make sure tomatoes are clean and dry and excess stems and leaves are removed before storing. Place them in a paper bag, a breathable cardboard box or on a cookie sheet and leave them on top of your washer/dryer or tucked away in your kitchen in just the right, indoor climate. Speed up the ripening process by placing a banana in with your tomatoes. The ethylene gas bananas naturally produce when maturing will give your tomatoes the extra nudge they need to ripen.
The length of time it takes for tomatoes to ripen indoors depends on how mature they are at time of harvest as well as their indoor environment. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Preserve, Pickle, Cook
If you haven’t heard, green tomato chili, fried green tomatoes, and pickled green tomatoes are the new rage. Try adding them to your favorite salsa recipe or wrapped in enchiladas for a new twist in flavor. One of my favorite ways to prepare green tomatoes is to add them to leftover pickle juice. If you have a jar of pickles in the fridge with just one or two floating in a bath of brine, save the brine for your next batch of green tomatoes. Wash and quarter tomatoes, place in the brine and pop them back in the fridge. Try eating them in about a week for full flavor. They last about 1 to 2 weeks this way and you’ll feel a small bit of satisfaction for savoring every tomato from your garden, no matter what.
When to Ripen & When to Cook
It’s true, not all tomatoes taste amazing when forced to ripen indoors — sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, so what’s the trick? I’ve found it’s best to save tomatoes for indoor ripening when they have a noticeable blush of color, like the one in the middle of the photo below (see arrow). These will have the best chance of developing the wonderful tomato taste you’re hoping for. You may be disappointed if you try ripening tomatoes that are densely green when they come off the vine, like the one on the left of the photo (see arrow). It’s probably best to cook these within a week or so of harvesting. If you have a surplus, consider canning them or make a sauce or salsa that can go in the freezer to be enjoyed at a later date.
Other articles you may enjoy:
October Garden Checklist
DIY Herb Cocktail Garden: How to Grow & Use Scented Geranium
How to Harvest Basil
*This article was first published in October of 2016
To pick or not to pick?
Your first consideration is this: are frosts forecast in your area in the next few days? If the answer is yes and your tomato plants are outside, it’s time to pick the fruit, even if it’s still green.
There is a way to tell whether these fruits have a chance of ripening. If they are full-sized but still green, cut into one of the fruits and look at the seeds – if they have a gel-like substance surrounding each one, then you’re in with a shot at ripening them. If not, cut your losses and check out the green tomato recipes below for new ways to use these fruits.
Protect and survive
Even if frosts aren’t on the cards, your plants will need maximum warmth in order for their fruits to ripen. My neighbour drapes bubble wrap around his outdoor tomato plants in pots to encourage ripening, creating a mini greenhouse effect: According to Carl Wilson of Colorado State University Extension, this works better for semi-red tomatoes that just need a final push, and less well for tomatoes that have reached their full size but are still green. If they are in pots, make sure they are in the biggest suntrap you can find: sunny and sheltered.
As tomato expert Craig LeHoullier writes in his book Epic Tomatoes: “Though they will reach full colour, the flavour and texture of green-picked, indoor-ripened tomatoes are typically inferior to those ripened on the vine.” With that in mind, this strategy worth a try, especially if you are keen to clear the ground for another crop: leave the tomatoes on the vine, but uproot the whole plant and hang it upside down to store.
The theory is that the fruit will ripen better while still on the plant, even if it is no longer in the ground. Shake the soil off the roots (or cut them off if you wish) and hang it – some people cut off the leaves, others don’t – in a frost-free, airy place: inside the shed or garage is fine, but they will ripen more quickly inside the warmer temperatures of the home. (If anyone looks askance, just pretend they’re a new art installation.) This does work: last year I ate a few tomatoes in December that finally ripened on plants in my shed.
Anywhere but the fridge
Placing tomatoes next to a banana will help them ripen, but speed things up by placing them in a bag or cardboard box. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
Once picked, the worst place to put unripe tomatoes – or in fact any tomato – is in the fridge. As James Wong points out in his book Grow For Flavour, “Tomatoes stored below 10C (50F) experience a dramatic shut down in the chemical reactions responsible for their flavour.”
When it comes to ripening any fruit, ethylene is your friend. This gaseous plant hormone is produced by all fruits as they ripen, and will prompt unripe tomatoes into turning red. Place the fruit in a paper bag, cardboard box or wooden drawer with a ripe banana or apple, ensuring you leave out any damaged or diseased fruit which will rot the lot. Check them regularly and you should find the tomatoes are ripe within a couple of weeks.
And for next year? Think storage tomatoes…
If you want to keep the tomato season going longer, consider growing some tomato varieties specifically designed for storage next year. These have almost died out – not many people bother in the age of supermarkets and tinned tomatoes – but it’s worth considering. They’re not often grown today, but these thick-skinned tomatoes can be stored like apples. There are a few options – in the UK, Victoriana Nursery offer a variety called ‘Long Keeper’, while The Real Seed Catalogue sells ‘De Colgar’ (scroll down the page a bit). Real Seeds notes: “Just as with apples, you need a slightly humid but well-ventilated store, with a steady temperature ideally about 8-10 C. But if you don’t get it quite right they still store better than other tomatoes.”
…Or just grow green tomatoes on purpose
Tomato ‘Marinda’ – just as tasty when green. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
Don’t forget that green tomatoes are underrated as an ingredient in their own right. Chef Stevie Parle explained in our Sow, Grow, Repeat podcast that he uses green outdoor-grown winter tomatoes from Sicily and Sardinia called ‘Camona’ and ‘Marinda’ in his restaurants during winter (listen from around 18:40). I haven’t found a source for these seeds in the UK, but Real Seeds sell a green cherry tomato called ‘Emerald Cherry’ as well as the better-known ‘Green Zebra’ from US tomato breeder Tom Wagner, while Jungle Seeds offer a large F1 tomato variety called ‘Big Green’ while ‘Evergreen’ is a green beefsteak available from Nicky’s Nursery.
Green tomato chutney is perhaps the most oft-suggested recipe, but think – how much homemade chutney do you eat in a year? Make one batch (maybe this Nigel Slater version using red and green fruits), then try some of these alternatives.
Stevie Parle suggests looks to India and Sri Lanka for inspiration: a thin tomato curry called rasam, for instance. There’s a wealth of recipes out there, but I am going to try this recipe for green tomato and onion curry at the weekend, from food blogger Gujarati Girl. I also love making green tomato salsa verde, substituting tomatilloes for green tomatoes. Green tomato tarte tatin is surprisingly good. Or perhaps you have your own green tomato recipe you’d like to share…
There are two types of green tomatoes: those that are green when fully ripe (usually heirloom varieties), and unripe tomatoes. Tomatoes that are green when ripe often have vertical stripes or other variations in the coloring, will feel soft when pressed, and will taste much like a red tomato, possibly slightly sweet or spicy depending on the variety. Unripe tomatoes will be pale green all over, feel nearly solid and will have a more acidic or tart flavor. Nearly-ripe green tomatoes (ones that feel soft) may be ripened in a paper bag on the counter top.
Don’t get upset if you get a cool summer and end up with a lot of unripe tomatoes left on the vine in October or even November. Here are 25 delicious-looking recipes to use up those green tomatoes.
Fun Fact: Fried green tomatoes isn’t just a movie title—they really are eaten in the Southern U.S., and they’re quite tasty, too.
Nutrition: Green ripe tomatoes are a very good source of vitamins A and C and potassium. They also contain iron, calcium, dietary fiber, magnesium, and other minerals. Unripe tomatoes will not be as nutrient dense since they are not fully ripe. For those with sensitivities to acidic foods, green tomatoes (unripe) can be more acidic than ripe tomatoes.
Harvesting Green Tomatoes
Posted on Aug 8, 2018 in Fearless Food, Recipes | 1 comment
Green tomatoes for frying aren’t often sold at markets in Chicagoland, and are one of the unique treats one can enjoy from the garden. While all tomatoes are green while unripe, there is a right time to pick a green tomato for frying, and this is not often explained in fried green tomato recipes.
The best green tomatoes for frying are, like most dishes, a matter of preference, but it’s generally agreed that you’ll want to pick an unripe tomato when it’s full-size or nearly full-size. As tomatoes grow larger, they go from feeling rock hard to firm while still green, then become a little softer as they begin to ripen and change color. Many prefer green tomatoes for frying when they are full-size, firm but not hard, and some prefer them with just a slight blush of ripe color.
These tomatoes are in the perfect stage for frying.
Here’s a great recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes, from Patrick and Gina Neely.
Some tomato varieties are still green while ripe, including the heirloom Aunt Ruby’s German Green and the open-pollinated variety developed by Tom Wagner, Green Zebra, which isn’t quite old enough to be considered an heirloom. Although most gardeners use color to determine when to pick a ripe red, purple, orange or yellow tomato, it’s a little easier to use the sense of touch to determine when to pick a ripe green tomato.
Grasp the tomato between your thumb and forefinger and press gently. You’re looking for a slight “give” when pressed, the same feeling as when you hold a ripe red tomato. If it still feels firm, it’s not ready yet. Green Zebras may show a slight blush of yellow at the bottom of the tomato, while Aunt Ruby’s German Green may show a slight blush of pink throughout the middle when ripe. These varieties will make fine fried green tomatoes if picked while still firm as described above, but will likely fall apart (as any ripe tomato) when fried if picked while ripe.
A glorious Aunt Ruby’s German Green.
Green tomatoes are also fantastic in chutney. If you still have green tomatoes on the vine at the end of the season when a frost is coming, this is a great recipe to save the harvest and preserve in canning jars. Of course, don’t forget Lindsay’s famous recipe for Green Tomato Cupcakes!
written by Breanne Heath
Tomato Jokes and Riddles
Q: What did the papa tomato say to the baby tomato?
A: “Hurry and ketchup!”
Q: Why did the tomato go out with a prune?
A: Because he couldn’t find a date.
Q: How do you fix a sliced tomato?
A: Use tomato paste.
Before you leave …
Get your free copy of “10 Must-Know Tomato Growing Tips.” This 20-page guide is filled with tips you need to know to have a successful tomato crop, whether you’re a beginning or experienced gardener.
Q. Why did the tomato blush?
A. Because he saw the salad dressing.
Q: What did the macaroni say to the tomato?
A: “Don’t get saucy with me!”
Q. What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?
A. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Q. How do you get rid of unproductive tomatoes?
A. Can them.
Q: Does Santa like to grow tomatoes?
A: YES — he gets to hoe, hoe, hoe!
Q: What is red and goes up and down?
A: A tomato in an elevator.
Q: Why did Mrs. Tomato turn red?
A: She saw Mr. Green Pea over the back fence.
Q. Why is a tomato round and red?
A. Because if it was long, skinny, and green, it would be a bean.
Q. How life is like ketchup?
A. Like ketchup, good things in life come slow and are worth waiting for.
Return from Tomato Jokes to Tomato Dirt home
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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors
When January arrives, and — throughout the greater part of North America — there’s no longer any doubt that freezing temperatures have set in to stay for a spell, gardeners begin hankering for fresh fruits and vegetables. And heading the list of most folks’ cold-weather cravings is a yen for the succulent, juicy flavor of a homegrown tomato. Unfortunately, though, by this time of year most backyard growing plots are resting under a winter blanket of mulch. So — unless you’re lucky enough to boast a greenhouse full of the ripening globes — you’re forced to either raid the pantry for a jar of cooked tomatoes, scavenge (in southerly climes) in the root cellar for the remaining picked-before-frost green specimens or bundle up and trudge to the grocery store to buy a not very red or juicy version of the tangy fruit.
But cold weather needn’t put a stop to your supply of “fresh” tomatoes. The good-sized green ones that were rescued from your autumn garden can be ripened indoors. Even the hard (and generally pretty much tasteless) pinkish variety found in the supermarket can be coaxed to a ruby-red hue that will brighten up a midwinter salad. Whether you gather your tomatoes from the basement or from the local grocery store, the trick to bringing out their full, robust flavor is the same: Simply give the pale produce a period of final ripening before you eat it. You’ll find that, when the tomatoes are “cured” under the proper conditions, their taste will approach that of their vine-ripened siblings.
Picking and Storage Tips for Tomatoes
The flavor of your indoor-ripened tomatoes will be determined not only by the treatment the fruit receives in its final stage of maturing, but also by the methods used for picking and storing the crop. Therefore, if you’re still lucky enough to have any green tomatoes gathered from the late-fall garden, you’d be wise to glance over this next section to make certain that your stockpile is stowed properly.
Green tomatoes, of course, should be picked before the first frost. The best tomatoes for indoor finishing are those from youngish plants in their prime rather than from vines that have been bearing all season (fruit from late-starting volunteers is usually ideal for this purpose). Only tomatoes that are shiny green or mottled pink-and-green should be harvested — the smaller, fluted, white tomatoes do poorly indoors, so it’s better just to leave them on the vine.
Once you’ve brought the last-minute harvest inside, remove any stems to prevent the woody ends from puncturing neighboring pieces of fruit. Next, sort the tomatoes, setting the riper ones aside so that they won’t be bruised by the harder green produce.
At this point, it’s necessary to take an inventory of the unripened haul. If you have a good number of green tomatoes, you’ll most likely want to set some of them in storage to mature gradually for use at a later date. To put such surplus fruit on “hold” for several weeks, you should store it at 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (the tomatoes will ripen in about a month at these temperatures). If kept below 50 degrees, the fruit will likely go soft without ever turning red.
If — on the other hand — you’d like to encourage ripening, but still want to store the tomatoes out of the way in the root cellar, try placing a few apples among the green spheres. As tomatoes mature, you see, they naturally release ethylene gas, which acts as a ripening hormone. This colorless hydrocarbon is also emitted by other fruits (such as apples). So if you increase the concentration of ethylene gas in a closed area (as you do by adding the apples), the tomatoes will often age more rapidly. Then, when their green skins begin to turn pink, transfer them to a warmer area, such as the kitchen, to complete the ripening process.
Of course, if — as most folks must — you’re gathering your midwinter supply of fresh tomatoes from the supermarket, you’ll have little control over picking and storage procedures. However, the commercial method of marketing the winter fruit is surprisingly similar to the “save from the frost” technique just described. All the tomatoes intended for shipment to the colder climes are picked at either the mature green or the pink stage. A “mature green” is a full-sized tomato just turning from a dark to a lighter green while a “pink” (or “breaker”) is at a more developed phase and is beginning to blush from green to red (or orange, depending on the variety).
Breakers go directly to market — before they ripen any further and become susceptible to bruises or rot during shipping. The mature greens, however, are stored for three days — at controlled temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit — in a “ripening room.” During this incubation period the tomatoes are bathed to ethylene gas to accelerate the ripening process. When the mature greens start to turn, they’re hustled from their chambers to the stores, and it’s then up to the consumer to complete the aging of the fruit.
How Not to Ripen Tomatoes
Transforming hard, pinkish tomatoes into juicy red beauties is easy as long as you steer clear of the two most common errors that people make when attempting to ripen winter fruits and vegetables. First, don’t refrigerate the edibles, and second, don’t place them in direct sunlight. This is because cold will inhibit the ripening process, while hot temperatures will over-hasten the aging. Either way, you’ll end up with an insipid, mushy product.
Instead, it’s best to place the tomatoes in a bowl (or set them in a single layer on a table) away from direct sunlight but in a warm room (a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal). It normally takes about a week for the pinks to ripen fully under such conditions. You can accelerate the process by placing the mottled globes in a commercially made ventilated, plastic fruit-ripening bowl (these are available at some supermarkets or kitchen supply stores) or simply poke half a dozen small air vents in a paper grocery sack and leave the tomatoes inside the homemade incubator for a few days. Humidity is extremely important at this stage, with 90 percent being the target figure (you’ll likely approximate this percentage when using a ripening bowl or a punctured paper bag). If it’s above 94 percent, the humidity will encourage the growth of micro-organisms. Below 85 percent, it will cause the fruit to shrivel. Be sure to check the containers every day to harvest the ready-for-eating tomatoes.
Whether you “indoor ripen” your own stash of stored garden bounty or incubate the underage fruit gracing January’s supermarket shelves, you’ll find that the slight extra effort involved in proper curing will be well rewarded when you bite into a red, bursting-with-flavor tomato this winter while cold winds still howl outside in the garden!