Jack Frost is such a kill-joy when he brings the tomato season officially to an end. We can gather all our old bedsheets and cover plants for a few nights, but cool temperatures just don’t ripen the last of the tomatoes. There are plenty of recipes using green tomatoes for “mock apple pie” and green tomato jam, but it’s still awfully nice to have the remaining tomatoes red and ripe.
Here is the best way to ripen the last of the tomatoes, based on information from Oregon State University research:
- Tomatoes that are “mature-green” will ripen off the vine. If they aren’t at that stage, they won’t
- To get a feel for which tomatoes in the garden are at the mature-green stage, cut into a sample. If the center is jelly-like and sticky, the tomato will probably ripen off the vine. If the center is dry, and doesn’t have the jelly-like texture, it probably isn’t far enough advanced to continue ripening.
- Mature-green tomatoes often have a pinkish tint starting to appear on the bottom end.
- Mature-green tomatoes have hard seeds, that aren’t easily cut through. Immature tomatoes have soft seeds, easily cut.
- Once you’ve gotten a feel for which types of tomatoes are mature-green, you can go ahead and harvest likely candidates for storage.
- Wrap individual tomatoes in newspaper, or place newspaper between layers of tomatoes and place in a flat box.
- Place the box in temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees F.
- Tomatoes ripen best in the dark, better than exposing to sunlight, even though I know many of us have put tomatoes on the windowsill to ripen.
- Tomatoes will ripen over a period of 2 to 4 weeks.
- For fast ripening of a few tomatoes, place them in a closed container, such as a brown paper bag, with a yellow-green banana. The ethylene given off by the banana will help ripen tomatoes.
- Green tomatoes for storage must be picked before they are exposed to frost, or near-frost temperatures, because cool temperatures damage the tomato tissue, reducing their ability to ripen.