Gardeners often pick tomatoes off the vines before they’re fully ripe. There can be several reasons for doing so. Sometimes, they are forced to pick all the tomatoes on the vines if a hard frost threatens the plant. Sometimes pests are a problem for ripe fruits, in which case gardeners pick them green and complete the ripening process off the vines.
Even when everything goes perfectly, many commercial growers pick the tomatoes some time before they’re fully ripe so the fruit may ripen in transit and reach the grocery store ripe and fresh. Whatever may be your reason to harvest green tomatoes, what you’re wondering now is, “do tomatoes ripen off the vine?” Continue reading and you’ll find the answer to all your questions.
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Do Tomatoes Ripen Off The Vine?
Yes, tomatoes can ripen off the vine.
Ripening is the final stage of the fruit maturing process. While the rest of the development of the fruit needs to take place on the vine, it does not need to be attached to the plant for the ripening stage. This stage is possible, both on and off the vine.
Since the fruit needs to stay on the plant for development prior to ripening, it’s important to note that not all green tomatoes will ripen off the vine. Only mature green tomatoes are capable of ripening off the vines. It’s important to select the fruits correctly before ripening them on the counter.
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How To Select Tomatoes For Ripening Off The Vine
If you’re picking tomatoes to ripen them off the vines, only choose the mature green ones. The mature green tomatoes are the ones that have grown to their mature size. Green tomatoes that are still small won’t ripen off the vine. Just to be sure, pick them once they’ve entered the ripening stage.
The first stage of ripening is the breaker stage. This is the stage in which the first glimpse of color breaks through the green surface of the fruit. You’ll see a blush of pink near the stem end just as the tomato starts ripening. The blush of color indicates that the tomato has entered the breaker stage. You can pick tomatoes anytime after the breaker stage and let it complete the rest of the color change off the vine.
How To Ripen Tomatoes Off The Vines
Once you’ve selected the best tomatoes to ripen off the vines, the rest of the process is just as simple. Discard any fruits that are damaged or showing signs of decay. Place the tomatoes in a cardboard box in a single layer, making sure the fruits aren’t touching each other. If they’re many tomatoes to ripen, you can wrap each one in newspaper before placing them in the cardboard box to avoid contact. Depending on the ripening stage you picked them in and the variety of the tomatoes, they can take multiple weeks to turn red.
Tomatoes ripen by producing ethylene gas. If left in the cardboard box on their own, they’ll continue producing the chemical, and ripening progresses as a result. If you want to speed things up, you can include other ethylene producers to push the ripening process. Ripe bananas give off lots of ethylene. Ripe apples are also good choices. Just include a single ripe or almost ripe banana or apple to the box of ripening tomatoes. All the ethylene produced inside the box will reduce the ripening time for your tomatoes.
Continue checking the contents of the box every few days and take the fruits as they ripen. The tomatoes may not all come to ripen at the same time. If the banana starts spoiling, replace it with a fresh banana promptly. Overripe or rotting bananas will attract fruitflies into the box. Also keep an eye on the tomatoes. Promptly remove and discard any fruit that starts showing signs of rotting. If left inside the box, they’ll also spoil the surrounding good fruits.
Ideal Conditions For Ripening Green Tomatoes
Although the warm summer climate favors the development of tomatoes, ripening occurs best when the temperatures are mild. Temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for ripening tomatoes. If the temperatures are too high or too low, the ripening process will slow down. In fact, if it’s too hot, the production of the pigments that turn tomatoes red can halt altogether. Room temperature is ideal for ripening tomatoes.
Since temperature affects the ripening time for tomatoes, sometimes gardeners sort the tomatoes in separate boxes and adjust the temperatures slightly differently for each box. By forcing the tomatoes to ripen at different times instead of all at once, they can enjoy fresh, ripe fruit for over a month from the true harvest time.
Another factor you should consider when ripening tomatoes is humidity. Avoid storing unripe tomatoes in humid conditions. Humidity promotes decay and attracts pests.
Do tomatoes ripen off the vine? Now you know that they do! It’s all up to you. You can enjoy fully ripe, fresh tomatoes from the vine, or pick them a little sooner to ripen them indoors. Some gardeners believe that the best flavors come from vine-ripened tomatoes. However, if frost, pests of diseases threaten the plant, at least there’s another way to salvage your homegrown harvest and enjoy flavors almost as good, if not better!