By ripening green tomatoes at the end of the season, you can enjoy fresh tomato taste for weeks after a heavy frost, sometimes even up to Thanksgiving!
Of course, the best way for tomatoes to ripen is on the vine. But late tomatoes may not have that luxury. As summer gives way to fall, keep an eye on your fruit. When the forecast is for the season’s first heavy frost, it’s time for a final harvest.
Pick all your tomatoes before the first heavy frost. (Once tomatoes are exposed to frost, their taste withers and texture is mushy. You will discard them.)
You can harvest an entire plant (or a branch) or harvest individual tomatoes.
When you pick individual tomatoes (rather than lifting entire plant and hanging it inside), you can follow these special tips to ripen fruit.
Sort through your harvest. Set and store tomatoes in these groups. Tomatoes in each group will ripen at about the same speed.
Mature green: green turning white, with a good size
Turning: a tinge of pink
Pink: 30-60% color
Light red: 60-90% color
Red: fully ripe but not soft
Immature green tomatoes have not yet begun to turn white. There’s a good chance they will not ripen, but rather spoil. Plus, they rarely develop a ripened-tomato flavor. Set aside unripened green tomatoes to use in green tomato recipes (like fried green tomatoes, for example). Enjoy them for what they are!
The tomato jury is out on this one. Some gardeners say no – don’t wash tomatoes until after they are ripe and ready to eat.
Water droplets can be left on the tomato and cause it do develop soft spots or mold – especially if you choose to ripen tomatoes in an enclosed space (such as a bag or jar as described below.)
Others swear by washing tomatoes once they’re picked, even using a light bleach solution. Late season tomatoes can acquire all kinds of fungi and mold.
Washing (and especially bleaching) can remove those nasties and prevent decay over the coming weeks as ripening green tomatoes mature.
If you choose to wash tomatoes just after harvesting, make sure they are completely dry before starting your ripening regimen.
Light isn’t necessary for ripening green tomatoes! Try these easy methods.
Store mature green tomatoes (those which were harvested at a good size, with a bit of white color) between 55-70ºF while you’re waiting to ripen them. (You can set them on a garden rack or ripening rack in the garage or basement.
At 55 ºF, green tomatoes will ripen in about 28 days
At 70ºF, green tomatoes will ripen in about 14 days
More on ripening and harvesting tomatoes
Is it ripe? When to pick tomatoes at peak ripeness ...
10 tips for ripening tomatoes on the vine ...
How to control fruit flies that attack your ripe tomatoes ...
When are my tomatoes ready to pick?
How to extend harvest of homegrown tomatoes ...
How to save tomato seeds to plant next year ...
Protecting tomatoes from frost and freezing ...
Fall tomato garden clean up ...
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