End of the season and you’re still left with a bumper crop of green tomatoes? Here are some simple suggestions for ripening them up, making use of nature’s own ripening gas, ethylene.
Harvest regularly. For each of these methods, always check regularly. If you can, pick green tomatoes that have a tinge of color at the blossom end and feel a little softer than the solid young fruits. If you pick them any earlier than this, they will not have matured and thus will not ripen at all. Cook immature green tomatoes as is.
If you’re not sure whether your green tomatoes are mature, cut a questionable tomato in half–if it has yellowish interiors and jelly-like or sticky tissue, it is mature enough to ripen. Obviously, the one that you cut in half won’t ripen, but observing how it looks on the outside will give you an idea of what to look for with green tomatoes on the vine.
If you know there’s a frost coming that will ruin all of the tomatoes, don’t pick individual tomatoes; lift the entire plant out of the ground, making sure that some roots are still attached. Shake off as much dirt as you can and hang it upright in a dry, sheltered location, such as the garage. Avoid extremes (direct sunlight, total darkness). The tomatoes will still ripen almost as well as they would have on the vine.
Before storage, always remove vines, twigs, stems, leaves etc. that might rub on other tomatoes and cause damage during the ripening process. If the tomatoes are dirty, wash them gently first and allow to air dry before trying to ripen them.
Use one of the techniques outlined below to store and ripen the tomatoes off the vine.
Keep an eye out for decay or mold. If you see any, remove the affected tomatoes immediately and give the tomatoes more air circulation. The cooler the storage area for the tomatoes, the longer the ripening process. Expect about 2 weeks for ripening under normal, warm household conditions. If the house or storage area is too cold, the tomatoes may never ripen or will result in flavourless tomatoes.
Jar method – For a few tomatoes
Assemble the jars.
Remove the lids.
Put in one ripening banana per jar.
Put in two to four medium-sized green tomatoes per jar. Do not overfill the jar, or the tomatoes might bruise.
Screw on lid tightly.
Leave in a warm, semi-humid place, out of direct sunlight. Check regularly – if your banana starts to rot before the tomatoes are ready, remove it and replace with a new banana. This method should leave you with ripened tomatoes within one – two weeks.
Cardboard box method – For many tomatoes
Prepare a cardboard box. If possible, add some foam or fruit cardboard in the base; or simply line with newspaper.
Place a layer of tomatoes in the box, each one next to the other. If you have a lot of tomatoes, a second layer on top is okay but be gentle. Do not make any more than two layers in case you bruise the fruit at the base.
Add some ripening bananas if you’d like. The tomatoes are likely to ripen anyway, as they release their own ethylene and influence each other. However, using bananas will help to speed up the process.
Place in a cool, slightly humid room away from light. A pantry shelf is ideal if you have one.
Plastic bag method – For a few or many tomatoes
Assemble plastic bags. Punch a few “air circulation” holes in each bag you are going to use.
Place 3 – 4 tomatoes with 1 banana in each bag. Depending on the size of your bag, you may be able to add more (or perhaps less). Be guided by the size of the bag, tomatoes and banana.
Store in a warm, semi-humid area away from direct sunlight.
Paper bag method – For a few tomatoes
Open paper bag and insert ripening banana and amount of tomatoes as will fit.
Store in a warm, semi-humid area away from sunlight.
This method is useful where you don’t have a lot of room and you only have a few tomatoes.