I’ve mentioned occasionally that I bring tomatoes in at the end of the season to ripen indoors, but I haven’t ever written what I do, how to do it, and what to look for. I finally took some pictures for you all as I went through this fall ritual a couple weekends ago.
You’ll usually find me grabbing any tomatoes with ripening potential (more on that later) in October – hopefully late October or early November if it’s been a mild fall – but this year found me harvesting our green-ish tomatoes the end of September. It had been raining off and on for about a week which caused many tomatoes to split already and a heavy, cold rain was predicted, so I filled a basket with any I could salvage.
As you may have gleaned from reading AOC, I, uh…like to do things the
lazy easy way (freezing vegetables without blanching, designing a garden for easy maintenance, and super easy crafts to name a few). But, honestly, in the fall I have tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and corn coming out of my ears and I would never have time to individually wrap each tomato like I read about here. I had more than a 5-gallon bucket full of potentials this year and didn’t have hours to spend wrapping each of them. Not to mention that then you have to check them – by unwrapping each tomato and then re-wrapping the ones that aren’t ripe yet.
Now, all you wrappers out there – I love you. You are who I aim to be one day. But this works for me – it ripens tomatoes that would go to waste on my vines but are perfect for fresh eating or making into Roasted Tomato Sauce to freeze when ripened this way (I don’t usually can with late season tomatoes since there’s usually lots of imperfections). And since I’m sure there are a few more out there like me (right?…right?), I’m sharing my fairly quick and definitely easy method:
How to Easily Ripen Tomatoes at the End of the Season
1. The first step is to harvest all the tomatoes with “potential.” Of course you will grab those that are already lightly red – that’s a no-brainer and they will even continue to ripen on the window sill. But you’ll also want to look for tomatoes with these signs of ripening potential:
- A hint of yellow on the side – this tomato pictured happens to be a Pineapple heirloom which is yellow, but if any green tomato is slightly yellow, there’s a good chance that it will ripen if brought inside.
- Starting to turn pink on the bottom – inspect all sides of the tomatoes and if you see any color, harvest.
- Any blush of pink on the top – again, harvest with a touch of any color.
- A red tip – this Amish Paste tomato always starts to ripen at the tips, so I harvest even though the rest is solidly green.
The last photo is what you don’t want to bother harvesting – a solidly green tomato with no hint of color anywhere will not ripen inside in my experience, so no need to waste your time with it.
2. The second step is to separate. You’ll want to separate the tomatoes that are lightly red all over from the barely colored.
- I simply place the lightly red tomatoes into a bowl and set them on the counter – they will be fully ripe in a couple of days.
- And here is my easy way to ripen the other, barely blushing tomatoes: place them in a brown grocery sack in a single layer (or as close as you can get – sometimes I have to put a few on top of others, but I make sure they are balanced between two on the bottom, so they aren’t directly on top of one). I’ve found that placing slicing tomatoes on their tops seems to keep them in better condition, although paste tomatoes get put in on their sides. I’ve also found that adding one lightly red tomato, as pictured, somehow helps the others to ripen better. Maybe it gives off gasses or something?
- After placing the tomatoes in their bags, I fold over the top a couple times and seal it with clothespins. Then I set them on our laundry room counter.
3. The third step is to check your bags regularly. It’s important that they be in a place where you can easily check them every couple days, because there will always be one or two that will start to rot and if you can remove it quickly, it won’t spread to the other tomatoes.
That’s it – three easy steps and a few minutes (depending on the amount of tomatoes you have) and within a week or two you will open the bags to find this:
Fully ripened tomatoes! There are usually a few areas that need to be cut off but they are terrific fresh in soft tacos, salads, and sandwiches and I usually get one last batch of Roasted Tomato Sauce to freeze from bag-ripened tomatoes. Oh, and that green one at the bottom? There’s usually one or two of those – the tomatoes that refuse to ripen. Don’t sweat it.
Sometimes I’ve had tomatoes ripening in their bags into December – but this year we’ll be lucky if we’re eating garden fresh tomatoes through October.
Do you ripen tomatoes at the end of the season?