As the weather turns cooler, many fruits, including outdoor tomatoes, become slower to ripen and you may end up with trusses of fruits looking more green than red.
However, there are things you can do to help your tomatoes ripen, either on or off the vine.
How to ripen tomatoes
While there’s still sunshine and temperatures don’t fall below 50F (10C), leave them on the plant because they are likely to do better on the vine than off it. Try these other measures which may also help the ripening process…
1. Remove excess leaves
Your tomatoes need as much sunlight as possible, so remove leaves that are shading them from the sun to help expose the fruits more easily.
2. Stop them
Pinch off any remaining flowers and tiny fruits so that the plant energy is focused on the larger ones. You don’t want to dilute the plant energy by allowing tiny fruits to develop which are never going to ripen before autumn.
Ease off on watering the plants, which will encourage remaining fruits to ripen.
3. Bring tomatoes indoors
Once the cooler weather has set in, cut off whole trusses of the remaining fruits still attached to the connecting stem – you’ll need to attempt to ripen them indoors. Whatever you do, bring them in before the first frosts.
If you notice late blight (black marking up the stems) taking hold, remove stems which remain unaffected because as long as the blight doesn’t reach the fruit, you should be able to salvage the crop. Wash them in luke warm water before letting them dry naturally.
4. Give them a helping hand
Tomatoes that are starting to ripen should complete ripening if left at room temperature for up to two weeks, if you store them in newspaper, in a cardboard box, in a dark place between 55-70F (13-21C).
The warmer it is, the faster they will ripen, but make sure it’s a dry, dark environment and check them over every couple of days, removing any showing signs of rot.
If you have small numbers of tomatoes, put them in a paper bag or a wooden drawer with a banana, which releases ethylene, an odourless gas that will speed up the ripening process.
If you have a lot of tomatoes to ripen, put a couple of apples – which also release ethylene – into the box to accelerate things further.
5. Use up the green ones
You can still use green tomatoes that haven’t ripened. Try making green tomato chutney, salsa verde or add them to curries.
Whatever you do, don’t put them in the fridge. Not only will they not ripen, they’ll also lose their flavour.
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