It’s not easy waiting for your green tomatoes to ripen. Sometimes, the weather or the growing conditions can make it even tougher to the point when green tomatoes simply refuse to turn color. Are you half way through the tomato growing season and wondering how long do tomatoes take to ripen? You may even be contemplating if it’s normal for the ripening process to take so long, or is there some kind of problem you’re missing.
Continue reading the post to learn about the average harvest time for tomatoes and some common reasons why your crop might be taking longer to deliver ripe fruit. You’ll also learn some useful tricks you can try to speed up the ripening before the frost kills off the crop.
How Long Do Tomatoes Take To Ripen
A ‘mature green’ tomato takes around 20 to 30 days to ripen completely on the vine. The ripening process is a change of color from green to the mature color of the specific variety you are growing. Mature green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes that have grown to their full size. After the blossom set, it takes 20 to 30 days for tiny green tomatoes to turn into mature green tomatoes. The next stage is ripening, which typically takes around a month before you can pick ripe fruits from the vines.
A tomato is ripe when it has the mature color all over the surface and is still firm but can be pressed if you apply pressure. Depending on the cultivar, the mature color can be red, yellow, orange or pink. Green tomatoes also exist. For the green tomatoes, you can allow around 20 days to ripen and then press the fruit to see if it gives. Also their color changes from dark green to light green upon ripening.
A tomato plant can take anywhere between 113 to 156 days to grow to maturity after planting the seeds. When growing from transplants, they usually take between 50 to 80 days to produce ripe fruit.
Common Reasons Why Your Tomatoes May Be Taking Longer And Their Fix
There are a couple of things that can prevent tomatoes from ripening on the vines. If your tomatoes are taking unusually long to change color, here are some of the common reasons to know about:
Temperature Is Not Ideal
Tomatoes won’t ripen when it’s too hot or too cold. The ideal temperature for ripening tomatoes lies in the range 70 to 75°F. When the temperature exceeds 85°F, the ripening process slows down, or even halts in some cases. Similarly, temperatures below 50°F are too cold for the tomatoes to ripen.
You can’t change the weather. So if the outdoor temperatures aren’t the best and you have a bunch of green tomatoes by late summer that refuse to ripen on the vine, you can bring them indoors to ripen at room temperature. Wait until the green tomatoes have reached their mature size before picking them off the vine and bring them indoors to complete the ripening process.
They Are Green Tomatoes
It’s possible that what you might be taking as unripe, is actually a ripe tomato! Are you sure about the variety you are growing? Some tomatoes are supposed to stay green, even after they are fully ripe. Green Zebra is a popular green tomato that will often confuse you between ripe and unripe tomatoes. While they are light green when unripe, Green Zebra develops golden stripes when it ripens fully. The flesh should be soft and juicy.
Excessive Green Growth
Towards the end of the summers, sometimes, tomato plants will continue spending energy on growing leaves and stems, when they should ideally be focusing on ripening the fruits. This usually happens when you’re feeding the plants with nitrogen-rich fertilizers. At the ripening stage, tomato plants will benefit from a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus and potassium fertilizer.
Additionally, cutting off new growth also helps the plants concentrate on ripening its fruits. Pinch off the suckers and prune some of the leaves so the plant doesn’t have to waste its resources on green growth.
Too Many Flowers
If the plant has too many flowers, it may spend its energy on developing new fruits instead of ripening the mature green fruits that are already on the vines. Towards the end of the summer, gardeners pick off all the flowers from the vines since it’s unlikely that these new flowers will produce fruit that will ripen in time before the frost kills off the plant. Doing so will further save the resources for ripening existing mature green tomatoes on the vines.
What To Do With Unripe Tomatoes
If you fail to ripen your tomatoes even with all the above tips, all is not lost. No need to toss them into your compost pile. Green tomatoes are completely safe to eat! In fact, there are plenty of unique, mouthwatering ways in which you can bring your unripe tomatoes to use. You can pickle them, turn them into green tomato salsa, or fry them!
So now you know how long you’ll have to wait before you can see green tomatoes. If they’re taking longer to ripen than they’re supposed to, follow all the tips you’ve learned in this post to speed up the process and bring some juicy homegrown tomatoes to the table faster. Even if things don’t go as planned, green tomatoes will make a crunchy, tangy treat!