No matter what keeps your tomatoes from turning red, what you want to know is how to turn green tomatoes red. Try these 6 tricks and enjoy the best homegrown tomatoes you had long been hoping for.
So the growing season is approaching its end, but your stubborn tomatoes still won’t turn red on the vine? When you’ve been waiting for so long to see the vines laden with bright, red tomatoes, it can be quite frustrating to see a lot of green and only a little red. Yet, this is a common problem, sometimes even encountered by experienced gardeners. Don’t worry, and don’t give up on your harvest just yet! You can still see those red, juicy tomatoes if you follow some tricks.
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Ripening is often delayed when they’re too many green tomatoes on the vine since they demand plenty of energy from the plant to turn red. Cooler temperatures can also slow down the process.
How To Turn Green Tomatoes Red
1. Pinch Off Late-Season Flowers
It takes around 6 weeks to make ripe fruits from the point you see the yellow blossoms on the vines. Late season flowers aren’t going to develop fruit in time before frost ends the growing season. Since they’re leaching the plant’s energy and won’t set good fruit, picking them is a good idea. Pinch off all late flowers as they appear so the vine can concentrate its energies on ripening the existing fruits.
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2. Pruning New Growth
As the growing season comes to an end, the tomato plant shouldn’t have to waste energy on growing new branches and leaves. All the energy should go into ripening the fruits. Prune out most of the new growth, together with some of the lower leaves, so the fruits can ripen faster. However, don’t remove all the foliage, or the plants can go in stress.
3. Uproot The Plant
By the end of the growing season, if a hard frost is predicted and you have several green tomatoes on the vine, pull the entire plant off the ground to ripen it indoors. Make sure the roots are still attached. Shake off excess dirt from it and remove the small green tomatoes that aren’t close to their ripening stage. Hang the plants upside down in a dry area, where the temperatures stay between 55 and 70°F. Check the plant daily and pick the tomatoes as they ripen.
4. Ripen Them Separately
You can also pick all the green tomatoes before frost and set them on the countertop to ripen. Don’t place them in the refrigerator since they won’t develop further if the temperatures fall below 50°F. Gradually, as they produce ethylene, the tomatoes will turn red and soften.
5. Introduce Ethylene
Though they’ll eventually ripen even when spread out on the counter, you can speed up the process. Place them in a bag, a few in each one, together with a ripe tomato. Place them in a warm location. Enclosing them will speed up their ethylene production, turning them red faster.
Adding a ripe banana or an apple to the bag further speeds up the process since they, too, will give off ethylene gas. Check the bag daily; take out and consume tomatoes as they ripen. Remove and discard any spoiled fruits.
6. Store Them In Boxes
Some gardeners choose not to ripen them all right away. Instead, they’ll sort and store them properly to enjoy their harvest for a longer time. They sort the unripe tomatoes according to their ripening stage and store them in boxes in a single layer. Leave them uncovered and store them in a location where the temperatures stay within the 55 to 70°F range.
The tomatoes that are completely green will take around a month to ripen at 55°F. They’ll ripen sooner if the temperature is higher. Adjust the temperature depending on how soon you want your harvest ready.
Additional Things To Know About
Besides the tricks you’ve learned above, some additional tips will come in handy when trying to ripen your green tomatoes. Here’s what you need to know:
- Once you’ve picked them, you can only ripen the “mature green” tomatoes. The mature tomatoes are the ones that are at least a little soft to touch. They may even have a streak of color to indicate that the ripening process has been initiated. If they’re hard to press, they won’t ripen off the vine, so there’s no use wasting time and efforts on them; use them green or toss them in the compost.
- When picking the green tomatoes for ripening, leave a part of the stem attached. They’ll ripen better with some stem attached to the tip.
- The best flavors are achieved when the tomatoes are allowed to ripen on the vines. Tricks to ripen the green tomatoes off the vine are only considered when frost threatens the crop.
- If you have green tomatoes, ripening them isn’t the only option. You can also try some green tomato recipes, like fried green tomatoes and green tomato salsa.
Uses For Unripe Tomatoes
If all your attempts to ripen your homegrown tomatoes fail, you are stuck with a bunch of unripe, green tomatoes you don’t know what to do with. Don’t be disappointed! As it turns out, there are several different uses for unripe tomatoes, and you’ll love what turns out with each one of them.
Here are some delicious uses for green tomatoes:
- Fried Green Tomatoes
When you think of green tomatoes, the first thing that comes to mind is fried tomatoes! And yes, it’s one of the most popular uses for green tomatoes since they hold their shape well and turn out into a crispy, tangy, sweet snack to brighten up your evenings.
To make classic fried green tomatoes, coat slices of tomatoes in egg, flour, cornmeal and breadcrumbs. Next, heat oil in a pan and add slices to fry them until they’re golden on both sides. Season them with salt and pepper and serve hot.
- Pickled Green Tomatoes
Green tomatoes are firm and hold their shape well in brine. That’s exactly what makes them ideal for making pickles. Green cherry tomatoes make beautiful pickles, but any variety will do the job. Add dry spices to jars, followed by diced green tomatoes. Lastly, add hot brine before sealing the jar. Make sure you use raw tomatoes for making pickles, without a lot of color change. Tomatoes that are close to ripening are soft and won’t hold shape when turned into pickles
- Add Them To Jams
Though unripe tomatoes aren’t very sweet or bring a lot of flavor to jams, they’re packed with pectin – the key ingredient that gives jams their firm shape. You can turn them into a tomato jam with lots of sugar to sweeten the flavor. Or add some chopped unripe tomatoes to any fruit jam. These unripe tomatoes will bring pectin to the recipe and give your jam the texture you find in store-bought jams.
- Green Tomato Salsa
If you can’t use them up all at once, an excellent way to preserve a large harvest of unripe tomatoes is to turn them into salsa. Combine chopped green tomatoes with onion, pepper, garlic, and apple cider vinegar and bring the mixture to a boil. Add herbs and seasonings, simmer for 15 minutes and ladle them into sterilized jars. Leave ½ inch of headspace before sealing the lid.
- Stews and Sauces
You can add them to the usual recipes that you use ripe tomatoes in. green, unripe tomatoes bring a hint of tanginess to the recipe, adding uniqueness and color to it. Cook them into stews or add them to sauces and chutneys for adding a little sourness to the flavor. Green tomato chutney, made from green tomatoes, spices and your favorite herbs makes a delicious condiment that goes with burgers, sandwiches, rice and all kinds of different meals you have every day.
Now that you know how to turn green tomatoes red, try out these tricks and make good use of your harvest. In just a couple of days, you’ll have a bunch of red, juicy tomatoes to go in your salsa, salads, sauces, pasta, and plenty of other dishes. And while it’s true that when you grow tomatoes, you want to see nothing less than clusters of red fruits hanging from the branches, there’s always a next year.
Plan better for the next crop; select the varieties suited to your climate and sow them on time. Pinch suckers throughout the growing season. Give them optimal care and pinch out the flowers and new growth towards the end of the growing season.
If you follow all the advice, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t see the vines laden with red tomatoes at harvest time.