Let green tomatoes ripen: this is how they turn red quickly

In autumn, when the days are getting shorter, not all tomatoes are ripe and there are still many green ones on the bush. Due to the lower temperatures and the reduced sunlight, they no longer ripen. But that’s no reason to throw them away, because green tomatoes ripen if you create the conditions for them.

Why green tomatoes have to ripen

Like green potatoes, unripe, green fruits contain the active ingredient solanine, a bitter substance that the fruits produce to protect themselves from pests. Solanine can be harmful to health when consumed in larger doses and cause symptoms of poisoning. This poison is fat-insoluble and heat-resistant, so that it is retained even when cooking, baking or frying. It is all the more important to let unripe fruits ripen before eating them. During the ripening process, the solanine is gradually broken down and is practically no longer present in fully ripe fruits.

Tip: In addition to the unripe, green tomatoes, there are also varieties that are green when fully ripe, so it is better not to confuse them.

Don’t wait too long to harvest

Green tomatoes should be harvested before the first night frosts, because frost would destroy the fruit and make it inedible. Even nocturnal dew can affect the sensitive fruits. It leads to glassy spots on the fruit. In addition, the increasingly damp weather can promote an infestation with the dreaded late blight and brown rot. Infested fruits would then have to be disposed of.

  • Harvest unripe fruits when temperatures drop below 10 degrees at night
  • Use only intact and healthy fruits
  • Do not tear off tomatoes under any circumstances
  • Sensitive tomato skin could tear
  • Possible in damaged areas, germ and fungus infestation
  • It is better to cut fruits from the plant
  • Leave the stem on the fruit
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Post-ripening methods

There are several different methods of bringing green tomatoes to full ripeness. Which is ultimately the best depends on the amount of unripe fruit and the local conditions. The fruits can be left to ripen individually in a suitable container or directly on the bush. No matter which of the numerous methods you choose, adding apples, pears or bananas can accelerate the ripening process. This is due to the ripening gas ethylene, which these types of fruit give off.

On the bush

Unripe, green fruits can easily ripen directly on the bush. This has the decisive advantage that the typical tomato aroma and taste are most likely to develop here.

  • Dig up the plant by the roots or cut it off to the ground
  • Then remove the leaves and damaged fruits
  • Hang the plant with the unripe fruits upside down
  • Hang outside on warm and sunny days
  • Preferably in front of a south wall, protected under a roof overhang
  • Any well-ventilated room is also suitable
  • For example an attic, boiler room or frost-free shed

Tip: Despite the best conditions, post-ripened fruits usually do not achieve the full aroma and typical taste of fruits ripened in the sun. Nevertheless, they are usually much more aromatic than those that you can buy in stores in winter.

Im Beet

If the weather permits, green tomatoes can also ripen in the bed, whereby you should especially keep an eye on the temperatures. First, you put a wooden board or similar surface in front of the plants. Then you bend the plants so that the fruits have no contact with the ground. In the last step, you place a cold frame, cold box or a small mobile greenhouse over it and cover it with insulating materials, e.g. an opaque film or fleece, to protect it from the cold.

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In vessels and containers

Vessels and containers are particularly suitable for smaller quantities or individual fruits. Some experts recommend cutting off entire panicles whenever possible and laying them out for ripening. Here, too, the stem ensures that the fruits can develop their intense aroma. In addition, you can avoid injuries to the fruit during harvest. The freshly harvested tomato panicles are then placed in appropriate containers.

Carton or basket

Larger quantities of unripe, green fruits can also be ripened well in cardboard boxes, baskets or wooden hoards. You lay out the respective container with newspaper and distribute the panicles or individual fruits, ideally together with an apple. If necessary, you can put a second layer on top. Then the first one should be covered with several layers of newspaper beforehand. Finally, cover the top layer with paper or cardboard, because tomatoes don’t need any light to ripen, they ripen even when it’s completely dark.

Tip: If there is not enough space or if only a few fruits are to ripen, it is sufficient to wrap them in some newspaper or a paper bag and place them in a warm, slightly damp place.

Tongue barrel

In clay pots, especially the tried and tested Roman pot, unripe tomatoes find the best conditions, thanks to the porous material, to ripen particularly quickly and gently.

  • Put the pot in the oven for about half an hour before filling
  • Heat is said to kill germs and fungal spores
  • Then put the pot in the water for several hours
  • Put the unripe tomatoes in the still moist container
  • Cover the pot after filling
  • Ideally, use coasters made of clay
  • Place the coaster with the recess facing up
  • It should fill with water
  • As soon as the water has evaporated, refill
  • Then put the clay pot in a warm place

Tip: Of course, the fruits have to be checked regularly and moldy, rotting or damaged ones sorted out, regardless of the type of container.

Mason jar

Using mason jars for these purposes is certainly not optimal, but still possible. It is best to use dark, lockable glasses. When filling, care should be taken not to put too many tomatoes in a glass and rather to use several glasses with only a few fruits each. If there are too many tomatoes in a jar, pressure points occur that can later rot. After filling, the jars are closed and placed in a dark place.

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With red ripening film

The post-ripening method with red foil, which is now offered in well-stocked gardening centers, is still relatively new and unknown. The effectiveness of this film is based on long-wave light pulses that mobilize a protein in the plants, which suggests to the tomatoes that neighboring plants are already bearing ripe, red fruits. In order to emulate this and to catch up the supposed lead, the tomatoes ripen faster. This method is useful while the tomatoes are still in the garden. All you have to do is spread the film around the plant on the ground.

Optimal conditions for post-ripening

Temperature and humidity are essential for the ripening process of tomatoes. As a result, they should be harvested while it is not too cold. You need temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees, ideally between 18 and 20 degrees. The warmer it is, the faster the fruits ripen. If it’s too cold, they either ripen very slowly or not at all and spoil.

The humidity should neither be too low nor too high. In the best case, it is over 80%. If the conditions are not ideal and it is too humid, the tomatoes can rot. If, on the other hand, the humidity is too low, the fruits can dry out in the worst case.

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