Our growing season is very short. It might just be 100 days, plus our summers tend to be on the cooler side. We often have to harvest green tomatoes at the end of summer. Thankfully, tomatoes ripen nicely after already being harvested. They also do still taste better then the store bought ones :).
Why pick green tomatoes
When the weather gets cooler and there is only a few short weeks of frost free weather in the forecast, there are two reasons why it makes sense to pick the most mature green tomatoes:
- We want to make sure we get all the best big tomatoes without any frost bite or damage. These tomatoes have the best chance to ripen indoors.
- We want to give the plant a signal to ripen the remaining tomatoes as soon as possible. Picking the biggest and the flowers and growing points helps.
- Green tomatoes do store well and allow us to have homegrown tomatoes for many weeks after the garden is done.
How to protect tomatoes from frost
Since there are always some tomatoes left that are too green to pick, you can protect the plant from cold and frost. However, as I mentioned above, we do harvest everything that is mature enough to ripen indoors before there is danger of frost.
A Plant Protection Blanket is my favorite way to protect plants from frost, it is light weighted and can be left on for days if needed. You can cover a tomato bed with it, or wrap an individual plant. Mature tomato plants can also easily be covered with an old bedding sheet. Just make sure to take that off as soon as the sun is up in the morning.
If there was more frost than you expected and the plants did freeze even under cover, the tomato fruits are still edible but will not store for after-ripening.
How to ripen green tomatoes
Generally speaking, it is very easy to ripen green tomatoes, and they are forgiving. Green tomatoes will ripen nicely.
- The tomato needs to be a good size and look shiny. Small, very green tomatoes will not ripen. Only mature green tomatoes ripen after.
- A stem can be left to help ripen the tomatoes, personally I have not found it necessary.
- Tomatoes should ideally be well-spaced, one by one, not touching each other. So if one gets bad, it does not infect others. The single layer also helps to have a good overview of all the tomatoes because they will ripen at different stages.
- If there is any cracks or damage, the tomato still might make it, but you have to keep an eye on it.
- Tomatoes do not need direct sun light to ripen. I just store them in the basement. If you do not have a darker space, cover them with newspapers. We do not recommend wrapping the individual tomato in newspaper.
- Room temperature (between 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit) is best. Warmer temperature will speed up the ripening process, cooler will slow it down and lead to having tomatoes for up to 3 months.
- If you have a lot of green tomatoes that you want to ripen fast, have them in a warm place and add an apple to them.
See how to ripen green tomatoes on video. This time our daughter is doing the talking. She is the one that does the proofreading on our blog as well.
Hope this helps you to see a benefit in all those still green tomatoes in the garden. Between 2 greenhouses we always get lots of ripe tomatoes till late fall, still I’m happy to have green tomatoes too. This will last even longer.
Read more about growing tomatoes in cold climate.