How to Store Green Tomatoes from your Garden, So They Ripen Inside, During Fall and Winter
This month's notes: March 2014: Spring is just around the corner. Strawberries are here in Florida, Texas and California, next in late March and April for much of the South, then in May for most of the country and June in cooler northern areas. See how easy it is to make strawberry jam or strawberry-rhubarb jam!
Ripening Tomatoes Indoors
It's not difficult to ripen your green tomatoes indoors. And while they are not as good as a vine-ripe tomato picked in the heat of summer, they will taste a lot better than any store-bought greenhouse tomato! And I have had tomatoes that I picked green in October, ripen indoors and ate them in early January!
Here's how to do it, followed by the facts, science of ripening, FAQs and tips. And to see how to properly store apples for the winter, see this page!
How to ripen green tomatoes indoors
- Pick the green tomatoes off the vine, BEFORE they are hit by a frost. If there has already been a frost, only those green tomatoes which were protected will ripen. You can easily tell the frost damaged tomatoes as they turn a dark green often immediatley, but certainly within a day or two.
- Inspect and wash (under cool running water*) the green tomatoes, blot them dry with a clean towel and let them dry completely. * Why use running water? Because you want to wash away any dirt, bacteria, fungus, etc. and NOT cross-contaiminate the tomatoes.
- Remove any damaged, soft, or spotted tomates. You can attempt to ripen them, but keep them away from your good tomatoes as they will probably quickly rot.
- You will need a flat, wide container with an absorbent layer to
spread the tomatoes out. Here are the keys:
The container should be liquid proof, or made of a thick absorbent material (like thick cardboard) so that it will contain any liquid from tomatoes that rot.
The bottom must be lined with an absorbent material, so when a tomatoe rots, the liquid from it will not contact other tomatoes (which will cause them to rot)
There needs enough rooms so that no tomato is touching another tomato. Ideally, there should be about 2 inches between each tomato.
The flat, wide cardboard produce boxes that you can get for free at Costco or Sam's Club are ideal, when you line them with about 5 sheets thick of newspaper or paper towels.
- Place the clean, dry tomatoes one layer deep in the boxes. Space them out, so no tomato is touching another. 2 or 3 inches between tomatoes works well.
- Store the box of green tomatoes in a cool (50 - 65 F), dry area. An unheated basement, insulated garage, or enclosed porch would work very well. If the temperature is on the cooler end, say 50 - 60, ripening will be slower, and you may have some into January. Temperatures in the 60's will cause much more rapid ripening. High humidy typically causes more rot. I use a dehumidifier in my basement, set on 35 - 40% humidity.
- Check the tomatoes at least every week. Eevery other day is better. Remove any that are 50% or more red, and let them finish ripening on your kitchen counter. Check the tomatoes for signs of rot. Any rotting tomatoes should be removed. Once a tomatoe starts to rot, it will spread quickly.
- The tomatoes should slowly ripen over a period of 3 weeks to 3 months!
Tips on Ripening Green Tomatoes
- Inspect every other day - the spread of one rotting tomato to the others is your greatest danger.
- Good air circulation and low humidity will help prevent mold from forming.
FAQs - Frequently Asked Questins and Answers
- What about pulling up the
whole tomato plant and bringing it inside?
That's more work than it is worth, and it brings all the mold spores, bacteria and microbes that are on the plant into your house and keeps them near the tomatoes, while they ripen... bad strategy.
- Is any chemical or spray needed to get green tomatoes to ripen?
No. They ripen all on their own.
- Will placing a banana near the tomatoes cause them to ripen
Yes, it should, as banans give off ethylene gas as they ripen and that is one of several factors in the ripening process.
- Do they have to be kept at a specific and/or steady
It certainly helps to have an even temperature, and cooler (50-60) results in slower, more controlled ripening.
- Must I pick the tomatoes before frost?
That is best. Tomato plants, like pepper plants and basil, will die well above freezing, anyway, and any frost-damaged tomatoes will rot rather than ripen. If the frost has already occurred, you can salvage tomatoes that were in protected spots on the plants, or covered, so they have no frost damage.
- What about ripening the tomatoes on a sunny windowsills?
Definitely not! Light is not required for ripening and, in fact, it tends to make the skins of the fruits harder and overheating the tomatoes can cause them to rot. Remember, the tomato is no longer attached to a growing plant!
- How important is temperature?
Temperature is a very important factor. The warmer a tomato fruit is the quicker it will ripen. So you can slow down ripening by placing tomatoes in a cool area (50 - 60 F) or speed them up with moderate warmth (60 - 68F).
- What about other methods like wrapping each tomato in a
peice of newspaper or putting each in its own small paper bag?
Over the years I have tried all of these methods, and found the method above is best. You cannot inspect the tomatoes when they are wrapped or in a bag, and I haven't seen any advantage to it.
[General picking tips and a guide to each fruit and vegetable] [How much do I need to pick? (Yields - how much raw makes how much cooked or frozen)] [Selecting the right varieties to pick] [All about apple varieties - which to pick and why!] [Picking tips for Vegetables] [ Strawberry picking tips] [ Blueberries picking tips]
Illustrated Canning, Freezing, Jam Instructions and Recipes
[ All About Home Canning, Freezing and Making Jams, Pickles, Sauces, etc. ] [FAQs - Answers to common questions and problems] [Recommended books about home canning, jam making, drying and preserving!] [Free canning publications to download and print]