Ripening Green Tomatoes: On and Off the Vine

Simply because some of our tomatoes are still green come harvest doesn’t mean we can’t use them. We can use them green in a number of recipes. Or we can help the ripening process along.

Ripen Tomatoes ON the Plant

This technique should be used towards the end of the growing season and the plant’s life cycle , it involves shocking the plant into devoting all its energy into ripening its tomatoes.

Take a kitchen knife and cut a semi-circle around the plant, about 2 inches from the stem, and about 8 inches deep into the soil. You want to cut a chunk out of the root system that is anchoring the plant to the soil, but leave enough so it can still absorb moisture.

Natures purpose for the tomato plant, is not providing our salads and sauces, but to produce enough seeds for the next generation – continuation of the species.

If you stress the plant enough to make it believe it’s dieing, all of its energy will be devoted into rapidly ripening it’s fruit and seed. The trick is to trick the plant into a “death mode” but not to actually kill it before it has time to ripen the fruits.

Water and care for the plant as usual and harvest as many ripened tomatoes as you can before the plant dies. If you still have green tomatoes at the plants demise, you can still ripen them, but off the plant.

Ripen Tomatoes OFF the Plant

Tomatoes ripen from the bottom up and the inside out, so don’t put tomatoes on a windowsill to ripen because they will only turn red, but not ripe. They will stay green inside, and although usable, they won’t concentrate any further sugars, and won’t be as tasty.

  1. Place your unripened tomatoes in a paper bag , and then put them in a dark, warm spot. I prefer to segregate my tomatoes based on color. Fruit which is completely green goes into one group; fruit which exhibits some coloring goes into another.
  2. Cover them with a single sheet of paper.
  3. Placing a slightly ripening banana in with the fully green tomatoes helps to hasten the ripening process. The banana isn’t needed for the tomatoes showing some color. Peek into the bags daily and remove ripened tomatoes asap, use them first. Keep an eye on your banana also – you don’t want it going fungal.

Tomatoes which show signs of color generally ripen fully in the paper bag within 5-7 days. Green tomatoes, when encouraged by a banana, generally take 2 – 3 Weeks.

These are the conditions tomatoes need to continue the internal ripening process. The light, was needed for photosynthesis, it isn’t needed anymore, in fact it actually encourages bacterial rot. Darkness, warmth, and naturally-occurring gases produced by the fruits are what the tomato needs to turn it’s natural delicious red.