How To Turn Green Tomatoes Red & How To Store Tomatoes In The Fall

How To Turn Green Tomatoes Red & How To Store Tomatoes In The Fall

By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

When there are too many green tomatoes on a plant, ripening can be delayed, as it requires a lot of energy from the plant for this process to occur. Cooler fall temperatures can also inhibit ripening. Wondering how to make tomatoes turn red can be frustrating for a gardener. Harvesting green tomatoes and storing them indoors will help conserve the plant’s energy; thus allowing you to enjoy your crop well into fall. Even better, learning how to store tomatoes and making them turn red is easy.

How to Make Tomatoes Turn Red

Getting tomatoes to turn red is not difficult. There are several methods that can be used for making tomatoes turn red.

One way how to turn green tomatoes red is to ripen mature green tomatoes in a well-ventilated area at room temperature, checking their progress every few days and discarding unsuitable or soft ones. The cooler the temperature, the longer the ripening process will take. For instance, mature green tomatoes will usually ripen within a couple of weeks in warmer temperatures (65-70 F./18-21 C.) and about a month in cooler temperatures (55-60 F./13-16 C.).

One of the best ways for getting tomatoes to turn red is by using ripening bananas. The ethylene produced from these fruits helps with the ripening process.

If want to know how to turn green tomatoes red but only have a few on hand, using a jar or brown paper bag are suitable methods. Add two to three tomatoes and one ripening banana to each jar or bag and seal closed. Place them in a warm area away from sunlight and check regularly, replacing banana as needed. Tomatoes should ripen within one or two weeks.

Using an open cardboard box for getting tomatoes to turn red is suitable for numerous tomatoes. Line the box with newspaper and place a layer of tomatoes on top. Although a second layer can be added, do this only when necessary, as tomatoes are prone to bruising. Add a few ripening bananas and place the box in a cool but slightly humid area away from sunlight.

How to Store Tomatoes

As with the ripening process, green tomatoes can be stored in different ways.

In some cases, taking up the entire plant, rather than picking individual tomatoes, may be required. Simply pull up the plants with roots attached and carefully shake off excess soil. Hang them upright in a sheltered location to ripen.

They can also be placed in single layers on shelves or within shallow containers and boxes. Green tomatoes should be stored in temperatures between 55 and 70 F. (13-21 C.). Ripe tomatoes can be stored in slightly cooler temperatures. Remove stems and leaves before storing tomatoes this way. Make sure the storage area is away from direct sunlight and not too humid. Excessive humidity can cause tomatoes to rot. Suitable storage areas include garages, cellars, porches, or pantries.

Learning how to store tomatoes and how to make tomatoes turn red will eliminate overcrowding fruits on the vine. Harvesting green tomatoes on a regular basis is a great way to continue enjoying your crop well into the fall season.

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Canning tomatoes are the classic way of turning fresh, ripe tomatoes into something you can enjoy all year long. Whole peeled tomatoes are perfect for turning into sauces, using on pizzas, and adding into stews. All you need is tomatoes, a large pot, sealable jars, and some time. No special skills required, we promise.

How to Use Tomatoes

Peeling fresh tomatoes is not necessary, although some cooks prefer it. To peel fresh tomatoes, dip them in boiling water for about 30 seconds or until skins split. Remove with slotted spoon and dip in cold water. The skins will come off easily.

  • To Slice: Use a serrated knife. To retain juice, slice tomatoes lengthwise rather than crosswise.
  • To Stuff: Cut top off crosswise and scoop out seeds and juice. Fill tomato with cottage cheese or chicken, tuna, or egg salad. Sprinkle paprika on top.
  • To Bake: Cut top off crosswise, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and season as desired. Bake 10-15 minutes on a baking sheet at 425 ºF.

Besides adding fresh sliced or chopped tomatoes to salads, try adding them to these dishes, just before serving:

  • nachos
  • burritos
  • spaghetti
  • scrambled eggs
  • pizza
  • chili
  • macaroni and cheese

Children may find eating cherry and grape tomatoes fun. Quarter them to reduce risk of choking.

How Long Can You Make Your Green Tomatoes Last?

Do you have tricks up your sleeve for storing tomatoes into the fall and winter? What's the longest you've been able to keep your summer tomatoes around? If you've got any tips and ideas for storing tomatoes, please share them by posting a comment below.

Photo by L. Shat/

I can green tomato pickles. How long can they be kept

We preserve green cherry tomatoes by pickling them as dill pickles or pickle relish. We also make berry jam from them by using berry flavored jello.

I have found placing the tomatoes, unwrapped, in a single layer in a cardboard box results in fewer rotten tomatoes. In northwest Wisconsin I generally have to collect the green tomatoes in late September/mid October and often have fresh tomatoes at Christmas.

I've stretched my tomato harvest all the way into JANUARY! (Our last frost is usually around October 5.) I wrapped each tomato individually in a square of newspaper, put them all into one layer at the bottom of a cardboard box, and stored them in the coldest part of the house, which was the floor of the coat closet. Once a week, I'd unwrap each tomato. I'd use it if it was red, and re-wrap the others. marking the newspaper of the nearly-ready ones with a yellow highlighter marker. Lindsey @ The Herbangardener

I purchased one of those upside down hanging planters. Since they still have green tomatoes on them, I just took it from its hanging position and moved the entire contraption into my heated garage near a window. Now they can ripen naturally, probably into November. Otherwise, I just pull up the entire plant from my garden, shake off the excess soil and hang that in my garage.

I have plastic containers, mainly empty twenty-eight pound kitty litter containers. I "line" the bottom with a towel (leaving the ends of the towel go up the side of the container) and place some tomatoes on the towel. Then, I place a hand towel over them (again the ends going up the sides initially) and adding more tomatoes. Repeating the towels until I get the container filled with tomatoes, then I fole the ends of the last towel over and loosely place the lid on the container. This is stored in our rarely used back stairs, which is cool due to being closed at all times. The tomatoes can be stored in the basement, which I have done in the past. They need to be checked every few days for ripening. I had tomatoes ripening until after Thanksgiving last year.

Before the frost does anything, harvest your green tomatoes and wrap them individually in newspaper. Store in a cold pantry. When you want to use them, unwrap and sit in the light somewhere inside your residence and they can start turning red for you. It works.

I make a drawing of my garden and where my tomatos are the latest I cover them during the early frosts. When it gets colder I put straw about 12 inches deep over the vines and a stake where the tomaotos are. It usually snows and covers the mounds of straw with a nice blanket of snow. The ground temp. helps things from freezing and with the straw cover it works out just about right. I go out every couple of weeks and pick my tomatoes along with carrots and my buttercup squash. I have picked green tomatoes out of the garden into December and then wrap them and let them ripen in the basement or use them as I pick them. The straw breaks down during the spring and is just right to till under for spring planting.

It's a definite fact that leaving at least some of the vine on the tomato slows down the spoiling. I clip or break off the vine about 1/2" from the attachment point and dip the fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit by botanical definition) in dilute hydrogen peroxide (food grade) 1/2% in non-chlorinated water for 10-30 seconds to kill off any bacteria and to remove any residue. If I cut the vine, I dip the tool in a peroxide solution between each different plant to prevent any possibility of bacterial or viral transfer. The peroxide (H2O2) causes quicker callousing of the end. Also remove any vegetables/fruit that are reaching the point of being at all over-ripe. Beside other reasons, when fruits begin to over-ripen they accelerate the production of Ethelyene gas which naturally speeds the decomposition. Tomatoes degrade the skin surface quicker when the temperature in the storage area is too cold. They keep much better at 40 degrees fahrenheit than at lower temps. We leave our coolers at 40-42 degrees and have greatly improved our pre-delivery storage life . Note: Do not store apples in unventilated close proximity to other fruits and vegetables since they are one of the largest producers of Ethelyene gas from the moment they are picked. We use this to our advantage with potatoes. To produce eyes for planting we just put 1 apple in a closed box of potatoes for a month. John Wells-Elk Valley [email protected]

I have kept long keeper tomatoes through Thanksgiving, by wrapping green ones in paper and putting in a cool space stored on screens. I would lose maybe a fourth of them, but still they were so much better than the ones from the store.

Put green tomatoes in a paper sack.

Tomatoes and other ripening fruits, such as bananas, apples, and avocados, rely on ethylene gas—not sunlight—to ripen, which is why Cunningham says it's crucial to keep green tomatoes in a confined, temperature-controlled area once they're harvested so they can continue to mature. "Choose a confined spot, such as a paper sack or a cardboard box, that stays roughly around the 70 [degrees]-75 [degrees] range," he says. "This will allow for better airflow and less humidity, so a better concentration of natural ethylene gas can hang around."

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors

I’m not gonna lie. When you have to resort to trying to make your unripe harvest turn red indoors, you’re not going to get the same great taste as you would with vine-ripened homegrown fruit.

For one thing, while you can make them ripen a bit indoors, you can’t make it produce the sugars that make homegrown tomatoes taste so great. You can encourage your green harvest to produce more ethylene, but that doesn’t produce sugar.

Still, it’s worth a shot if you have “mature green” tomatoes on your vines. Don’t expect luscious, dripping slicers, but do count on red fruit that still tastes much better than the commercial variety.

Instead of eating them in, say, a caprese salad, you’ll probably be happier using them in homemade salsa or on tacos, or simmered into soups.

Are you growing your plants in containers? The simplest way to try to turn those red is to bring the whole potted plant indoors, where it’s warmer.

If you’ve got the space and the muscle, you can also uproot entire vines full of mature green fruit and hang them upside down from rafters in the garage or basement until fruits are red and ripe.

Make sure some of the roots are still attached, and hang the vines in an area that’s well lit but not in direct sunlight.

Wherever you move your potted or uprooted plants, make sure the temperature there is consistently in the 50-70°F range.

You can also pick them individually to ripen indoors. If you set them on a countertop, they’ll eventually produce enough ethylene to turn red and to soften.

If you get impatient, you can also set them in a bag with a ripe tomato to speed up their ethylene production. If you add a slice of banana or apple to the mix, it will give off ethylene gas and speed the ripening process even more.

You’ll have to be vigilant, though, and remove each one that turns red as it ripens. Otherwise, you’ll end up with rotted fruit oozing over the still-hard green fruit. (I’ve seen this with my own eyes.)

And whatever you do, resist the temptation to stash your ripening tomatoes in the fridge. They need to turn red at room temperature, or they’ll lose every bit of their tomatoey flavor.

Stretch Out the Goodness

Tomatoes have exceptional flavor and outstanding nutrients that we all love. And even though ripe fruit has a short shelf life, we can still stretch out the goodness of a homegrown harvest.

Ripen green fruit in boxed storage or try one of the preservation methods described for long-term storage – and long-term enjoyment!

And why not visit our sister site, Foodal for more recipe inspiration?

Do you have any favorite ways to store tomatoes? Drop us a note in the comments below and share your tips.

And for more tomato knowledge, check out these articles next:

Photos by Lorna Kring © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Lorna Kring

A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

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