When temperatures drop at night that means a slow down on your garden tomatoes’ ripening process. Cold is definitely the wrong climate for them. Maybe some of your tomatoes came off the vine because of a little overzealous pruning. Not to worry! You can coax the ripening process from green to red when tomatoes are taken indoors. Tomatoes actually need warmth and not sun to ripen. So turn your tomatoes from green to red inside by keeping them warm (an indoor temperature of about 70º F is perfect).
4 Methods To Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors
First, pick the fruits that are mature, at their full—or nearly full—size, and softened a bit with a blush of color on the blossom end. Once you have them inside, it’s best to not wash them unless you are attempting to save a fruit after losing the plants to disease (be sure to dry thoroughly). Otherwise don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them as any moisture left on the tomato could turn to mold.
Then try these methods to turn those green tomatoes red:
1. Paper Bag Method
To ripen a few green tomatoes, put them in a paper bag, close it up, and store in a warm location. Keeping tomatoes enclosed together, the ethylene they emit will stimulate ripening. You can add a ripe banana or apple as well to speed things up. Once a tomato is ripe, remove it from the bag and enjoy it right away. Check the bag daily for mold or rot and remove any spoiled pieces.
2. Box Method
If you have several green tomatoes you want to ripen, consider using a cardboard box. Place them in the box so they do not touch one another. You can add a ripe banana as well. Close the box and, as with the bag-ripening method, check daily for mold and rot, or full ripening, and remove those tomatoes.
3. The Windowsill Approach
Try this if your tomatoes have already started to show some ripened color. Simply put them on the sill of a window that gets sunlight. Inspect them daily for progress. You can also remove tomatoes you have ripening in a bag or box once they start showing signs of color and continue their ripening on the windowsill.
4. Hanging Upside Down Method
Some gardeners pull up the entire plant – roots, fruits, and all – and hang it upside down in a location indoors. The theory is that the plant, while alive, will send all its available energy to the fruit. You should shake off as much of the soil as possible before hanging, then check the progress daily.
Keep in mind the following:
- Tomatoes tend to ripen best with part of the stem left on.
- These methods should ripen fruit in about 7-14 days, or sooner.
- Green tomatoes that are not yet mature cannot ripen once picked.
- These methods do not enhance flavor. No tomato is going to be as delicious as field ripened. But, it’s a better option than having them go to waste.
- Be sure to keep tomatoes at room temperature during the indoor ripening process. Do not refrigerate them, as this will ruin their flavor.
If you need to pick the tomatoes, and don’t want to wait to ripen them, eating them green can be an option as well. Try these delicious recipes:
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Laura Modlin is an environmental journalist, blogger, foodie and nature fan. She writes for newspapers and magazines, and maintains a blog about a simpler life. She co-founded a river conservation project in Connecticut. Her mission is to inspire deeper connections with the natural world and a desire to protect it.