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By Beka Compton
The Times 

Save the green tomato!

Green tomatoes late in the season may not be a total loss with these easy, indoor ripening techniques


September 16, 2021

Beka Compton

Newspapers work wonders when ripening early tomatoes. I may be a little biased, but I think these are some of the prettiest newspapers I've used yet. I'm expecting the tomatoes to be ready in two to three weeks.

Fall is finally here! I've been waiting for it all summer. Unfortunately, my tomato plants didn't get the message that their expiration date was quickly approaching. The first frost date for 2021 is expected on October 21.

Like many other people in the area, my tomatoes are late. My plants remained pretty bare up until last month when everything decided to grow at once. They grew, and grew, and grew, but they would not ripen up. This weekend I had to pick green tomatoes earlier than usual, after having my hand forced by the local wildlife.

If you end up like me and have plenty of green fruit at the end of the season, don't worry, they can still be saved, and you can enjoy a crop of tomatoes.

If you can, bring the entire tomato plant indoors for the winter, hang it upside down in a dry, sheltered area, such as a garage, and leave it be. You'll still have the great flavor and some of the benefits of vine-ripened tomatoes. I've deployed this tactic on loaded cherry tomato bushes and had lots of luck.

The remaining options all involve picking the green fruit and bringing them indoors. A little bit of a hit-or-miss solution, tomatoes will sometimes ripen if you place them on a sunny windowsill. This is the simplest option, by far, however, the color doesn't tend to be as vibrant, and I've found that the texture of the tomato isn't quite as pleasant. If you place the tomatoes blossom-side down, the fruit tends to rot less readily. Turning the tomatoes will help prevent soft spots and will encourage even color.

Placing green tomatoes in a brown paper bag with a ripe apple is something I have not tried, personally, but I have heard great things about it. Ripe apples give off ethylene gas, which helps speed up the ripening process. Store it in a dry, cool area and check the bag often for signs of rot if you try this technique.

My favorite indoor ripening technique involves the news! Tomatoes will ripen slowly when individually wrapped in newspaper and stored in a box in a dry, dark area. Right now, I have a wax-lined fish box full of beefsteak tomatoes, wrapped up in old versions of The Times, tucked away in my basement. The tomatoes do need to be checked often for signs of rot- I check mine daily. Do not stack the tomatoes more than two deep, as they will bruise as they ripen.

There is still about a month of growing time, but it looks like the warm weather is quickly giving way to cold and wet. Hopefully, your tomatoes behaved and ripen, unlike mine!


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