With the end of the growing season not too far away for your vegetable garden, it will be time to start making sure everything is ready to harvest.
One thing that catches many out when vegetable gardening for beginners, is tomatoes that are still on the vines and show no signs of ripening or turn red. If you are worried, you may lose the fruits or you will need to pick them at the last moment, and they are still green.
Help is at hand because here you can learn all you need to know about the ripening process of tomatoes so you won’t lose any of your precious harvests. You can also learn how to ripen tomatoes off the vine.
Do Tomatoes Ripen Faster On or Off the Vine?
Tomatoes will ripen faster on the vine when they are grown in the ideal conditions.
One thing that can hamper their progress is temperature changes as this reduces the production of lycopene and carotene. Depending on where you are growing them, you can move your tomatoes indoors and place them next to ethylene-producing fruits to obtain the best results.
If you have a greenhouse or covered patio, and your plants are in pots, you can place them on potting tables with a sink, so they get full sun. (Learn What Kind Of Soil Do Tomatoes Like)
For many gardeners though, this may not be possible. The ripening phase is the last stage of maturation of your tomatoes ripening where they turn from green to red.
You can see this stage starting when there are new blossoms dotted around the leaves of your tomato plants, and from there you can have fully-grown tomatoes in the range of 20-30 days.
You will see this stage occurring on your tomato plants in the hottest summer months of July and August. The fruits reach what is termed the “mature green” stage, and from there they require 20-30 days to ripen fully.
The stages you will see are as follows:
1. Green Tomatoes: Fully grown yet green where they change from light green to dark. You find this happens up to 30 days after your tomato plants blossom.
2. Breakers: You begin to see some pink showing on the surface. If there is less than 10% of the skin turning pink, they are called breakers. Commercial growers may pick at this tomato green stage and ripen them off-vine.
3. Turning: You will see a definite change in color and the pink covers up to 30% of the surface.
4. Pink: With above 30% of the surface being pink or a soft shade of red, the fruits inside have tomatoes green streaks, yet they can be eaten.
5. Light Red: Green shades are fading, and the pale red color covers the majority of the surface up to about 90% of the fruit.
6. Red: The ripening tomatoes will now be at their juiciest and the most colorful. However, this stage will last a matter of days, and if not picked, they can fall from the plants and crack.
How Do I Get My Tomatoes to Ripen on the Vine?
To help ripen tomatoes on the vine, you can do a few things to help your plant on its way.
- Reduce your watering: If your fruit is, or nearly at full size, then reduce watering to help encourage ripening.
- Keep Plants Dry: If it is late in the season, you can find it the ideal time for a bout of late blight to attack your plants. Water soil and not your plants and stake them for support is the best tomato blight treatment you can offer.
- Trim Your Plants: If you trim back the lower leaves, you can help your plants focus their energy on the fruit rather than more plant growth.
- Pinch Flowers: Depending on the time of year, any new blossoms will not have time for producing fruits. Remove these new blossoms so the energy will go to the tomatoes already there.
- Remove Diseased Leaves: You will have to check regularly and remove any leaves that are yellowing, spotted or moldy. This will also help focus the plant’s energy to the ripening process instead of fending off disease.
- Small Fruits: You can remove small fruits, as they may not grow much more substantial.
- Remove Excess Fruit: If there is still a bumper crop on your vines, then you can remove some of these before your first potential frost. You can take the breakers indoors to finish ripening them.
- Cover: If the weather is getting cooler at night, you should cover your plants at night with a clear plastic sheet. The warmth helps ripen fruit.
- Pull the Roots: If you tug gently at the bottom of your plant, you can send signals to it that it is time to speed up the ripening process before it’s time to go to seed.
How Do You Get Green Tomatoes to Turn Red?
With the above, you can see it is much better to remove some of the breakers or partially ripened fruits and to finish ripening tomatoes indoors.
It is very easy ripening tomatoes indoors after you have picked them when they are still slightly green. Here you can find the best way to ripen green tomatoes.
When you have green tomatoes you want to turn red, be sure they are in the ideal temperatures of 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. In colder weather, it can take a month to get tomatoes to ripen.
One of the best ways is to place your tomatoes close to ethylene producing bananas. All you need to do is add a ripening banana to a brown paper bag along with a few of your green tomatoes. It can take a couple of weeks, depending on the degree of green and ripeness. (Read Tomatoes Planting Spacing)
If you have more than a couple of tomatoes, you can take a cardboard box and line it with newspaper. Add a layer of your green tomatoes and then place inside a few ripening bananas.
It is possible to add a second layer of tomatoes, yet you need to be wary of bruising. Keep this in a cool and slightly humid area that is away from direct sunlight.
When you learn how to ripen a tomato and store them, you can eliminate overcrowding on the vines. Frequent harvesting of green tomatoes is an excellent way to enjoy the harvest far into the fall season.
Read more Tomato Guides
- What Is A Determinate Tomato Plant
- Is Mushroom Compost Good for Tomatoes
- What Causes Tomato Blight and How to Prevent it