Our growing season is very short. It might just be 100 days, plus our summers tend to be on the cooler side. At the end of the short summer, there are usually still many green tomatoes. Thankfully, tomatoes ripen nicely after already being harvested. Here is how to ripen green tomatoes indoors.
In this article, we talk about the whole process for green tomatoes at the end of a growing season. If you only want to know how to ripen tomatoes scroll down to that subject.
Why pick green tomatoes
When the weather gets cooler and there are only about two weeks of frost-free weather in the forecast, it makes sense to pick the most mature green tomatoes. With most mature, we mean those that are done growing, and just starting to turn color. When the skin turns from dull green to somehow translucent. Why?
- We want to make sure we get all the best big tomatoes without any frostbite 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 fruit helps.
- Green tomatoes that are not damaged by frost do store well and allow us to have homegrown tomatoes for many weeks after the garden is done.
Along with picking green tomatoes, you might want to snip off the growing point as well. If the plant is indeterminate, vine-type tomato, prune back all the lover leaves, if you haven’t already. That too will stress the plant to ripen fruit faster.
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 a 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 a cover, the 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. In other words, if the fruit looks somehow translucent, it will ripen, a green dull-looking tomato will not.
- 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 are any cracks or damage, the tomato still might make it, but you have to keep an eye on it.
- Tomatoes do not need sunlight 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 newspapers. It is extra work, and hard to tell when the fruit inside ripens.
- Room temperature (between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 15-21 °C)) is best. Warmer temperature will speed up the ripening process, cooler temperature 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 or a banana 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. If you have trouble seeing the video, go here.
Some growers like to hang the plant with the green tomatoes upside down to ripen. We tried that too. The tomatoes are ripening next to the garlic that is curing. It worked well, too. If there is room, it is a nice option. We did not leave the roots on, it would make a bigger mess I think. And we cut all the leaves off. There is no need for leaves at this stage.
After ripened tomatoes, are not sun ripe tomatoes. Depending on what stage they have been at picking time, and how long they are stored, tomatoes might be a bit soft, or dry. Most of them are great for cooking, some are also good for fresh eating in salads.
The picture above shows after ripened tomatoes in mid-November. They have been picked well 2 months ago. I will use most of them for the oven-roasted tomato sauce.
Hope this information on how-to ripen green tomatoes 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 a cold climate.