Our garden is the farm's pride and joy. We love spending time in it and preparing meals out of our fresh produce.
As fall approaches, many of us are left with green tomatoes on the vine that won’t have time to ripen before the frost. To save your valuable harvest, the unripe tomatoes can be harvested and brought indoors to finish ripening.
To successfully ripen tomatoes, we need to replicate the conditions that they would naturally receive in the garden. In particular, we need to provide an adequate temperature and naturally encourage ethylene gas.
Here’s how to quickly ripen green tomatoes indoors so you can save and enjoy your harvest.
Unripe tomatoes can be harvested and brought indoors to finish ripening.
How Long Does it Take Green Tomatoes to Ripen Indoors?
Most people’s homes are an ideal temperature and green tomatoes should ripen in about 1 to 2 weeks. Of course, everyone’s house is different so the results might vary.
The time it takes for the tomatoes to ripen also depends on how mature they are when you pick them. More mature tomatoes with a tinge of orange won’t take as long as tomatoes that are still mostly green.
Picking Unripe Tomatoes
To ripen a green tomato off the vine, pick the tomato when it is mature. A mature tomato will be full size and just starting to soften, and it will have started to colour just a bit. Be careful not to bruise the tomatoes, and discard any that are damaged, marred, or diseased as they will quickly rot.
If you pick them immature, they are not botanically ready to ripen and they will usually stay green and hard, or they will rot.
Will These Tomatoes Taste as Good?
A properly ripened tomato in your home should compare in texture and flavour with those ripened in your garden.
Even if you do lose some quality, it is far better to ripen them indoors than lose the whole crop.
How Tomatoes Ripen
When tomatoes ripen on the vine, nature gives them what they need to properly mature. When we pick tomatoes and ripen them artificially, we are responsible to provide the best conditions to encourage good development and stimulate the ripening process. Here are the key requirements that tomatoes need to properly ripen.
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The most important factor in ripening tomatoes is temperature. The temperature will determine how well, and how fast, they ripen.
18°C to 24°C (65-75°F): This is the ideal temperature for ripening tomatoes. At this temperature, most green tomatoes should ripen in about 2 weeks.
10°C to 15°C (50-60°F): As the temperature drops down, the tomatoes will still ripen but will take closer to a month to reach the desired ripeness. Below 10°C and results will be poor and might not ripen at all. For this reason, don’t put your unripe tomatoes in the fridge.
No Refrigeration Required
Never put tomatoes in the fridge
30°C (85°F) and above: Temperatures that are too high can also yield poor results. At these high temperatures, the tomato cannot manufacture the necessary pigments to turn red. Over 30°C (85°F), the ripening process significantly slows down and can stop altogether.
Staggering The Ripening Process: Knowing how temperature affects the ripening of tomatoes, you can ripen batches of tomatoes at different temperatures. This way, you will have a steady supply of ripe tomatoes and your tomatoes will not all ripen at the same time.
Ethylene gas is essential for tomatoes to ripen. Tomatoes are climacteric fruits, meaning they produce high levels of ethylene gas as they undergo the ripening process. Here are two ways to naturally provide more ethylene for our tomatoes to encourage them to ripen faster.
Ripen in an enclosed environment: Ripening your green tomatoes in an enclosed space, such as a box, will trap any ethylene that is produced and will encourage other the tomatoes to ripen faster.
Include Other Climacteric Fruits: As your tomatoes ripen, pair them with other fruits that release ethylene to speed up the process. Other climacteric fruits that help ripen tomatoes are bananas (slightly green is best), avocados, apples, melons, peaches, and kiwifruits.
How do they ship tomatoes from another country, yet they always arrive perfectly ripe? This is done by artificial manipulation of ethylene. In most cases, the tomatoes are picked unripe and are often sprayed with chemicals such as 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) which inhibits the production of ethylene and retards ripening. As the tomatoes are transported, they are fumigated with artificial chemicals to start the ripening process. While these commercial procedures are fraught with environmental and health concerns, we can naturally produce more ethylene for our tomatoes by putting them next to other climacteric fruits.
Tomatoes do not need light to ripen. In fact, tomatoes will often ripen in the dark better than when they are exposed to sunlight. This is because sunlight can heat up the tomato too much and inhibit pigment production.
6 Ways to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors
There are many different ways that you can ripen green tomatoes off the vine. Each way has its own advantages. Whichever method you choose to use, make sure you set your tomatoes “right side up” like they grow on the vine.
Here are 6 ways to ripen your tomatoes indoors:
- Bring the plant indoors
- Paper bag
- Cardboard box
- Wrap in newspaper
- In a jar
- On the windowsill
Check Your Tomatoes Regularly
Tomatoes that ripen indoors are more likely to mould or rot than if they are left to ripen on the vine. Check them every day or at least every other day and remove any that are going bad before they contaminate the whole crop.
#1 Bring the Plant Indoors
If you want to ripen your tomatoes on the vine, why not bring the vine indoors? Many gardeners claim that this produces the best flavour when ripening tomatoes indoors as the plant continues to feed the tomatoes as they ripen.
If you live in an area with a short growing season, consider growing your tomatoes in pots so you can simply bring them in as frost approaches. If your tomatoes are growing in the garden, you can dig up the plant and hang the whole thing inside to finish ripening.
- Pull up your tomato plant from the garden, including the roots
- Brush off any excess soil.
- Hang the entire plant upside down in your house.
#2 Paper Bag
This method works well if you only have a few tomatoes. By sealing the tomatoes in a paper bag, the ethylene they produce will speed up the ripening process.
- Fill a paper bag with your green tomatoes. Include a banana, avocado, or apple to produce more ethylene.
- Seal the bag by folding the top over.
- Check inside the bag every day or so and remove any tomatoes that are molding or rotten.
#3 Cardboard Box
This method is similar to ripening in a paper bag but is more practical if you have a larger harvest.
- Place a single layer of tomatoes in the bottom of a cardboard box. Try and arrange them so there is space between each one.
- Again, adding an underripe banana, avocado, or apple will speed up the process.
- Seal the box to encapsulate the ethylene.
#4 Wrap in Newspaper
If you want to put more tomatoes in each box, you can individually wrap each tomato in newspaper.
- Wrap each tomato in a few layers of newspaper. Leave a small opening at the top so any excess moisture can escape and prevent molding.
- Place the tomatoes in the box. Because they are wrapped, you can place the tomatoes touching. You can also stack the tomatoes 2 layers deep.
- Don’t forget to include a banana or avocado.
#5 In a Jar
This is a more ornamental method that will ripen tomatoes and create a table centerpiece at the same time.
- Place two or three tomatoes in a glass jar and seal the lid. This mini-greenhouse will hold a nice temperature and really seal in the ethylene.
- Carefully monitor your jar of tomatoes! While this method creates a perfect ripening environment, it is also a perfect environment for mold to breed. Open the jar as required to release moisture and excess heat. Avoid placing the jar in direct sunlight.
#6 On the Windowsill
The easiest way to ripen tomatoes is to just put them on your cupboard or windowsill. However, this is actually the least preferred way to ripen tomatoes. The intense sunlight streaming in through the window can be a disadvantage and inhibit ripening.
Regularly rotate your tomatoes so one side does not have to bear all the heat.
Ripening tomatoes on the windowsill does have the advantage that you can continually monitor their progress while enjoying the sights and smells of your harvest.
Ripening Green Tomatoes Indoors
Ripening tomatoes indoors is a useful skill. It can be the difference between a crop of nice, juicy tomatoes and no tomatoes at all. It is practically useful if you garden in a northern climate with a short growing season. In our Zone 2b garden, we are often leery of growing tomatoes for fear of losing them all to an early frost, but these methods mentioned above have been really helpful.
However you choose to ripen your tomatoes, I hope this article gave you enough information to make the most of your early harvest.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Bellwether Farming
Bellwether Farming (author) from Alberta, Canada on July 27, 2021:
You're welcome Christel E.. Yes, the banana trick works quite well.
Bellwether Farming (author) from Alberta, Canada on July 27, 2021:
I'm glad it was helpful, justthemessanger. Good luck, and we'd love to hear how it works out.
Christel E. on July 21, 2021:
Thank's for the Tipps. The tip with the banana was really new to me.
James C Moore from Joliet, IL on July 20, 2021:
This is just what I needed. I have a glob of green tomatoes that don't ripen no matter how often I check on them. Thanks for the tips.