Ah, the timing of nature. Each summer, I wait patiently for the delicious bounty from my tomato plants, and each autumn as temperatures start to tumble, I am left with many healthy green tomatoes on my vines.
If you experience the same problem – or if you have a ton of green tomatoes that have fallen to the ground – then you may be wondering the best ways to ripen them.
Here are the steps to follow.
First, for best results, cut the healthy green tomato off the vine with part of its stem still attached. If you have cherry tomatoes, snip the whole bunch off the vine. Only choose mature green tomatoes for indoor ripening. When in doubt, check for a shiny skin color. Small tomatoes that have a dull matte skin color will not ripen indoors.
Additionally, although tomatoes that are shiny green in color can ripen indoors, you will have the best luck with fruit that has started to show a bit of yellow or orange color.
Next, find a warm spot to place the fruit. Many people think tomatoes need direct sunlight, so they place them in the windowsill. However, tomatoes need warmth, not direct sunlight. In fact, too much direct sunlight through a window can make a tomato’s skin tough.
Finding a warm, dry spot is your best bet for the ripening process. Here are a few options to try, depending on how quickly you want your tomatoes to ripen:
1. Place your green tomatoes in a single layer in a loosely folded-over paper bag along with a banana or an apple. These fruits release a gas called “ethylene” that speeds the ripening process naturally. Check the tomatoes regularly for signs of molding or rotting.
2. Put your tomatoes with an inch or two of space between them in a single layer in a cardboard box that is lined with a layer of newspaper. Cover them with another layer of newspaper. Check them every 24 hours or so.
3. Concentrate the effects of ethylene by placing the tomatoes in a sealed plastic bag or a large glass jar along with a banana or an apple. Caution: This environment can encourage mold growth, so check the tomatoes often for mold formation.
4. Hang up the whole tomato plant – roots and all — upside down in a garage or basement where temperatures remain above 50 degree Fahrenheit. This method takes the longest, but many people say tomatoes ripened this way taste the best.
Tomatoes stored in temperatures 50 to 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) usually ripen in four weeks or even longer, and tomatoes stored in temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees can be ready to eat in just two weeks.
Sorting and storing by ripeness levels is a good idea, since it allows you to check on each batch more consistently. If you have an abundance of green tomatoes this fall, you might want to store some in different temperatures to stagger your late harvest.
Whatever method you choose, be careful not to crowd your ripening tomatoes. Adequate air circulation helps prevent mold formation. Separate out and discard any damaged fruit and safely dispose of any diseased fruit.
How do you ripen green tomatoes? Share your tips in the section below: