The Green Tomato Conundrum

Oct 26, 2022 | Information, Tips & Ideas

One of the challenges gardeners often have is what to do with the tomatoes that won’t ripen in the garden.
SF GATE helps explain what happened and how to use those tomatoes. 

Tomato fruits can reach that mature green stage as quickly as 25 days after pollination and can remain in that stage another 20 to 25 days. The main cause of a plant holding onto large, unripe tomatoes is related to air temperature. If the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit the plant can’t manufacture the pigments that give ripe tomatoes🍅 their luscious red and purple colors. If the temperature is under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, then the plant’s metabolism gears down, and all plant functions become sluggish.

It’s absolutely OK to harvest green tomato fruits. Doing so won’t hurt the plant, and it won’t hurt the fruits. Harvesting green tomatoes won’t stimulate the plant to make more fruits because that function is related to air temperature and nutrient availability in the soil. Pick only tomato fruits that have reached the mature green stage, are as large as ripe fruits, are lighter green than developing green fruits and are no longer rock-hard when squeezed gently. Take green tomatoes indoors to finish ripening or cook them according to your favorite green tomato recipe.

Freshly picked green tomatoes should never be refrigerated, because refrigeration destroys their flavor and will stop the ripening process. Tomatoes at the mature green stage should be allowed to sit on a countertop or shady windowsill at room temperature, or, even better, in a paper sack in a dry, warm place. Tomatoes emit ethylene gas as they ripen; when one begins to turn ripe, it helps its mates turn color as well. Another trick is to put the unripe tomatoes in a bag with another ethylene-rich fruit, such as a banana, apple or pear. Unripe tomatoes also can be wrapped individually in newspaper and stored in a cool, dark area, where they will keep a bit longer on the shelf and can be warmed to ripen fully as needed.

If you still have green tomatoes, click below for a healthier version of Fried Green Tomatoes!