How To Get Tomatoes To Ripen

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Nothing says summer like a fresh, ripe tomato! If your home grown green tomatoes are ripening slowly, give them time on the vine to redden and soften a bit.

However, if your tomatoes are under threat from birds, bugs or an impending hail storm, bring them inside to ripen.

What Causes Tomatoes To Ripen?

Tomatoes on the vine ripen because the fruit produces ethylene once it reaches a certain level of maturity.

If you don’t have the option to leave your tomatoes on the vine to ripen, you can place them in a paper bag with other tomatoes so the ethylene will be captured and increase ripening intensity.

How To Ripen Tomatoes On The Vine

Tomatoes ripening On Vine

Gardening can take a lot of patience. If you love ripe tomatoes but the idea of waiting for them makes you a little frantic, consider planting cherry tomatoes as well as larger varieties. These tiny tomatoes redden quickly and offer great flavor.

If your larger tomato varieties are lingering in a green state while first frost approaches, authorities at Tomato Dirt suggest​:

  1. Cut back on watering so the fruits don’t split.
  2. Pinch back or pluck off the new flowers. This will force the plant to put energy into existing fruits.
  3. Remove small fruits until only the fruit you want to ripen are still on the plant.
  4. Cover the plant with plastic sheeting on the coldest nights.​

How To Make Tomatoes Ripen Faster Indoors

  1. Check your tomatoes for damage. Insect boring holes, splits from too much water and bruises will likely cause the fruit to spoil rather than ripen.
  2. Place the tomatoes flat in a large paper bag or box to allow for maximum air flow between the fruit. Piling them may also cause spoilage.
  3. Place a green banana inside the bag with your green tomatoes for maximum ethylene release. (how to make bananas last longer)
  4. Once sealed, you can impact the rate of ripening by reducing the temperature of some containers. If you have a large number of green tomatoes, consider storing some of them at a cooler temperature so they ripen more slowly. At temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit / 10 to 15 degrees Celsius, you may wait up to four weeks for ripe tomatoes, so storage in a basement or root cellar can extend your harvest. Of course, these moist, cool environments can lead to mold, so check on your tomatoes after a week to make sure they’re still safe.
  5. At room temperature, or between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit / 18 to 21 degrees Celsius, your tomatoes should ripen in a couple of weeks. Check the tomatoes daily and enjoy!

Why Won’t My Tomatoes Turn Red On The Windowsill?

For those of us who grew up watching mom or grandma set fresh tomatoes on the windowsill to ripen, the lesson was that sunlight ripened the tomatoes. This is not actually true; temperature has more to do with ripening speed than sunlight.

In fact, tomatoes ripening on the vine will actually redden first on the underside or part closest to the plant, away from the sun.

Final Thoughts & Protecting Your Tomatoes

One of the joys of gardening is the chance to work with the rhythm of nature. However, some of nature’s creatures can turn vegetable gardening into a turf war.

If squirrels, rodents, birds and other uninvited dinner guests are helping themselves to your tomatoes, adding a water feature such as a birdbath can help; tomatoes are not only a source of nutrients but a source of water for many creatures.

Chipmunks, mockingbirds and squirrels will happily eat every ripe tomato you’ve got. If you don’t want to net or cage your plants, you may need to move your ripening station indoors.

Fresh summer produce makes the season sparkle for many of us, and growing your own food is a great joy.

If you’re gifted with a supply of green tomatoes, there are many recipes to use them as they are and lots of options for ripening them.

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.