Tomatoes are one of the most gratifying plants to cultivate in your garden, but they can also be challenging. Not only do you have to keep an eye out for tomato plant diseases such as blight and blossom-end rot, but sometimes, you can care for tomatoes all summer, only for the fruits to stubbornly stay green and refuse to ripen. Luckily, there’s a way to speed your plants along to harvest if they’re producing green fruits that aren’t turning red, yellow, or orange. You may even pick the final few green tomatoes off the vine before a frost and bring them inside to ripen towards the end of the season.
Why Your Tomatoes Aren’t Ripening
Tomatoes that aren’t maturing on the vine are usually overfed and overwatered. It happens to gardeners with the best intentions, but once the plant reaches the size you want, it’s time to cut back on fertilizing. Tomato plants only need to be fertilized two or three times throughout the season.
Limiting water, even to the point where the plant exhibits signs of stress (slight wilting) before watering again, might encourage the plant to mature its fruit. Watering in this manner also prevents the plant from developing new fruits, which is beneficial in areas with shorter growing seasons since the late ones will not have time to mature. If your season is lengthy, you may want to water the plant to keep additional tomatoes forming, but bear in mind that doing so may reduce the ripening of the others.
Lastly, the weather may influence tomato ripening. Temperatures between 68 and 77°F are ideal for maturing green tomatoes. Outside of that range, your tomatoes may still mature, but the process will be delayed. As temperatures exceed 85°F, the plants stop producing lycopene and carotene, the two pigments responsible for the color of ripe tomatoes. If the temperature in your location is high for a lengthy period of time, the ripening process may be slowed, and you may end up with yellowish-green or orange tomatoes. When the weather is too hot, there isn’t much you can do but wait for the temps to drop, at which time the ripening process will restart.
How to Ripen Green Tomatoes After Harvesting
Of course, you can’t wait indefinitely for temps to fall into the ideal range. Your tomatoes will no longer mature on the vine if the temperature persistently falls below 50°F. As long as the green tomatoes have started to turn color a bit (you should see just a touch of color at the blossom end of the fruit) and are a little soft to the touch, there’s a chance they’ll ripen indoors.
Put your collected tomatoes at a temperature range of 60 to 65°F (your pantry or basement might be perfect). Tomatoes don’t necessarily need sun to ripen, so you can also try wrapping them in newspaper or a paper bag to help keep them cool and speed the process along. It may take a few of weeks for them to mature this way, so keep an eye on them. Try putting the tomatoes in a paper bag with an apple or a banana. Apples and bananas emit ethylene gas, which aids in the ripening process, and placing one of the fruits in the same bag as your tomatoes will expose them to it.
Lastly, try removing whole plants and hanging them upside down inside. When the plant dies, the tomatoes may ripen on the vine. Just be sure to remove as much dirt as possible from the roots before bringing the plant indoors. And if you’re growing tomatoes in containers, you can also move the whole plant indoors in its pot and set it in a sunny spot until the last fruits finish ripening.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Green tomatoes are safe to consume. They don’t taste like ripe red tomatoes—they’re more tart and acidic—but they’re delicious fried in breadcrumbs or other coatings.
- While color is the strongest indicator of maturity, the texture of the tomato is equally important. A hard tomato is not ripe, but a very soft tomato is. A properly ripe tomato feels solid with a touch of give when gently pushed or squeezed.
- The color of tomatoes should not be affected by their size. Little tomatoes will continue to become red as long as they mature. Tomato plants that are stressed owing to over- or under-watering, severe weather, or pests produce smaller-than-expected tomatoes.