How to ripen green tomatoes

Figuring out how to ripen green tomatoes is easy with our top tips

How to ripen green tomatoes
(Image credit: Unsplash/Sophie Dale)

If you're looking for advice on how to ripen green tomatoes, the great news is that it's very easy. You'll be amazed how well tomatoes will ripen even if picked while still very unripe – if you give them the right conditions.

Tomatoes are a staple in a kitchen garden, but they don't always behave as you expect them to. Unusual weather patterns and climate change may well be wreaking havoc on the rate at which your tomatoes are ripening. Fortunately, using our expert tips will help you ripen yours at home and not waste your produce. 

How to ripen green tomatoes

Tomatoes

(Image credit: Unsplash/Tiago Fioreze)

1. Try the paper bag method

If your tomatoes are quite unripe, place them in a paper bag, cardboard box, or inside a kitchen drawer. Do not use plastic bags, are they're not breathable, and your tomatoes likely will rot without ripening.

2. Add a banana or an apple

To accelerate ripening further, add a banana or an apple to the bag/box. These fruits, as well as the tomatoes themselves, produce ethylene gas that promotes ripening.


Kate Russell, Author of Stop Wasting Your Yard! (opens in new tab), adds that it's not just bananas and apples that help speed up tomato ripening: avocados, figs, and other stone fruits will accelerate the ripening 'significantly.'

3. Leave halfway ripe tomatoes in a bowl 

If your tomatoes are halfway or almost ripe, you don't need to ripen them in a bag; just leave them out in a fruit bowl for a few days, in a warm kitchen (at least 65°F/18°C), away from direct sunlight. 

4. Use the paper towel method

Yes – something as simple as paper towels can help ripen green tomatoes. Franco Moiso, Co-Founder of TheSundayGrill.com (opens in new tab), says to put tomatoes 'on top of paper towel (to limit humidity) in a place where they'll receive sunlight. The process
won't be immediate, but the tomatoes will ripen fast and naturally.'

How to ripen green tomatoes: what not to do

Here's what not to do to ripen your tomatoes: don't attempt to accelerate their ripening on the vine by increasing exposure to sunlight or picking off leaves. It's not sunlight the fruit needs to ripen but warmth. With that in mind, that's why it often best to ripen them once picked in a place you can better control the temperature.

Why are my tomatoes not ripening at all?

There are two main reasons why your green tomatoes aren't ripening despite your best efforts:

1. You picked them when they were completely green. You'll have a far better chance of ripening your tomatoes if you pick them when they've begun ripening even a tiny bit. Even a tiny bit of yellow will give better results than a completely green tomato. If yours are totally green, use them in cooking instead of trying to ripen them.

2. Your kitchen is too cold: if it's very chilly in your kitchen all the time, it may take a very long time for your tomatoes to ripen, or they might not ripen at all. Move them somewhere with a more consistently warm (but not hot) temperature. 

Can you pick tomatoes when they're green?

The short answer is 'yes', but the longer answer is that you should think twice before picking very green tomatoes. Emma Loker, an expert gardener at DIY Garden (opens in new tab), tells us that 'while picking the green fruit won't hurt you or your tomato plant, it's
best to leave the tomatoes until they fully ripen, as these will pack a
more powerful flavor punch.'

'If you're picking green tomatoes, ensure they're at their mature green
stage. These will be as large as fully ripened tomatoes, sport a pale green
color, and won't be as hard as nails when you squeeze them.'

How long will green tomatoes take to ripen at home?

Tomatoes will take between one and three weeks to ripen at home 'when kept at room temperature' depending on how green they are when you pick them. Loker recommends keeping them out of the fridge if you can, 'as the refrigeration process eliminates the delicious flavor and prevents them from ripening.'

What should you do with lots of green tomatoes?

Some years, weather conditions may prevent the majority of your tomatoes from ripening, so the only way to rescue your fruit may be to just pick them all while they're still green, before cooler and rainier fall weather rots them. 

If this is the case for you this year, don't worry: there are plenty of uses for a bumper crop of unripe tomatoes. Loker has the following recommendations:

  • Make Green Tomato Chutney: 'If you have an abundance of green tomatoes, one of the best recipes to make is green tomato chutney. The recipe is easy peasy, and you can store it for a whole year!'
  • Make Green Tomato Jam: 'Why not try a green tomato jam if you have a sweet tooth? Add a load of sugar, just like you would with any other jam, and enjoy atop your burgers during your next BBQ!'
  • Enjoy fried green tomatoes: a staple in Southern soul food, the firmer texture of an unripe tomatoe makes for a pleasing dish when breaded or battered, then fried.

Green or red, tomatoes are a garden classic – enjoy them. 

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

SPONSORS