Ripen Green Tomatoes

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

Ideal conditions for a tomato to ripen in your garden is a daytime temperature around 80 degrees and a night time temperature above 55 degrees.  When we start getting cool days and even cooler nights in autumn, the growth and ripening of your tomatoes slows down dramatically.  Try to be patient and leave tomatoes on the vine as long as you can, but they just might not be ripe before the first frost.  Once a frost hit, the tomatoes will turn soft almost immediately.

Ripen-green-tomatoes by Midwest Gardening.jpg

But all is not lost, you have a few options to salvage those green tomatoes.

  • Use a frost cover for as long as you can to allow natural ripening. Check the article Fall Frost to learn how to protect plants from frost.

  • Pick all the green tomatoes before the first frost and find a good recipe for fried green tomatoes.

If fried green tomatoes are not your favorite and you prefer to ripen the green tomatoes without fussing with frost protection:

  • Pick all the green tomatoes before the first frost and let them ripen on your kitchen counter. Spread them out in a single layer, I put mine on a towl to make sure they stay dry on the bottom and do not allow the tomatoes to touch each other. If there is even the faintest blush of pink, those will ripen just fine and fairly quickly. Any tomatoes with bad spots will rot so just pitch them. If you have experienced any disease in the garden this year, wash and dry the tomatoes to remove any remnants of fungus or disease spores.

  • If you need to keep a lot of tomatoes out of your way and not spread all over the kitchen, put them in a single layer without touching in a shallow cardboard box. You can store the box in a dry place, cool is good but I find they are slower to ripen if it is chilly cool.

  • Check the tomatoes every few days. Remove fully ripened tomatoes for use. Remove and dispose of any tomatoes that have started to rot or have bad spots. Really stubborn fully green tomatoes might need some encouragement, so after a week or so if you have not seen any sign of pink, put a banana in the box. They ethylene gas from the ripening banana will encourage your tomatoes to ripen.

Tomatoes that have begun to blush may only take a week or so to ripen.  The really green stubborn ones could take as long as a few weeks.  The really green ones will not produce the full delicious flavor that garden ripened tomatoes do, but they sure beat store tomatoes.

Sharon Dwyer