How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors
Updated: Nov 9, 2022
Tomatoes are one of my favorite fruits (yes, tomatoes are fruits) to grow and eat so this year we have a total of 13 tomato plants in the garden. I have all kinds of different varieties from pear to spoon, slicers to saucers. There’s Paul Robeson's, Black Strawberry’s, Dark Galaxy’s, Roma’s, Zebra’s, Yellow Pears, Spoon Tomatoes, Terra Cotta’s, and more. I used DIY Wall-o-Waters (link below) this year and was able to put my tomatoes in the ground in May instead of June so my crops are a little bit ahead of schedule for the average Colorado garden and much to my joy my tomatoes are already starting to ripen.
But, it’s not all joy, gardens rarely are. I check my garden, twice a day, every day but plants are sneaky creatures. Even with my constant eye on them, I managed to have 4 tomatoes ripen on the vine. This should have meant joy, but as I plucked each ruby sphere from the vine, mouth-watering, I turned them over to see that 50% of them were gone. Eaten no doubt by my Arch Nemesis, aka the Damn Squirrel. So now I am vigilantly checking multiple times a day looking for “first blush” the first sign of color on my tomatoes and bringing them indoors to ripen.
Whether this sounds like a familiar tale to you or you’re picking your tomatoes in a mad dash against an early frost, this article is for you. Read on to learn the best way to ripen green tomatoes indoors to make the most of your tomato harvest.
How Come Tomatoes Can Ripen Indoors?
Tomatoes and other fruits, such as bananas, apples, and avocados, rely on ethylene gas—not sunlight—to ripen. This is why you will have the best results if you keep green tomatoes in a confined, temperature-controlled area once they're harvested so they can continue to mature.
Keep in mind, that tomatoes ripened after picking tend to be a little less flavorful than their vine-ripened counterparts, but for home growers, it's a great way to rescue imperiled tomatoes naturally and with very little effort.
Selecting Green Tomatoes to Ripen Indoors
Be sure never to harvest green tomatoes that are too small. Immature, green tomatoes may rot before they have a chance to ripen. For best results, select tomatoes that have been given a head start on the vine. In other words, those that are showing signs of “first blush” or color. Another way to test if a tomato is ready to harvest green is to give it a little squeeze. If they give a little, the ripening process has already begun. Skip fruit that is marred, has blossom end rot, or is showing signs of bug/pest damage or decay. No amount of indoor ripening will improve them.
How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors
Step 1: Harvest your green tomatoes. Whenever possible try to harvest with a small amount of the stem intact. It’s best not to wash them before setting them to ripen as it will introduce excess moisture which may cause rot.
Step 2: Select a confided container such as a cardboard box or paper bag. Place your tomatoes in a single layer with good airflow all around.
Step 3: Add a banana to the container
Step 4: Play the waiting game! Check them every two or three days and remove tomatoes as they ripen to eat or process for preserving. Once they are fully ripened and removed, make sure to wash them before eating!
If you have a large number of green tomatoes to ripen at once, put a layer of newspaper or brown bag/kraft paper in between them to create additional layers.
What’s Up With The Banana?
As we said above, certain fruits produce ethylene and bananas are a top producer! When you add a banana to the container your tomatoes are in it helps to fill that air around them with excess ethylene resulting in a faster ripening process. Select a banana that is yellow, but still shows some green at the ends, for the banana, this is the prime ethylene production time. If you don’t have a banana, you could also use an apple in a pinch.
For us, I allow the banana to ripen or over-ripen in the container then mash it up and freeze it to later become banana bread. Waste not, want not.
How Fast Will Green Tomatoes Ripen Indoors?
On average, your tomatoes will ripen in anywhere from 4 to 14 days. How fast your tomatoes ripen indoors will depend on a couple of factors, including how ripe they were when you picked them and how warm the room you’re storing them in is. Tomatoes ripen best in temperatures around 70 degrees. Keep them away from direct sources of heat like heaters or wood stoves.
What do You do With All Those Tomatoes?
Let’s face it, as delicious as green tomatoes can be, nobody grows tomatoes with the intention of eating them green. Now that you have an easy way to ripen them naturally, what will you do with all those extra tomatoes?
What’s your favorite recipe? Let me know in the comments below! And, as always, until next time: