Tomatoes To Love And Ripen

My garden has already been hit with a touch of frost and you can see it in my tomatoes. Magically there are still quite a few left unscathed as well. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to collect all the ways and lore around ripening green tomatoes, and if all else fails, good ideas for cooking them up!

Knowing Which Ones Will Ripen

  • Tomatoes ripen from the inside out, so once you are seeing colour on the skin, you know that the fruit will ripen, as long as they are not damaged.
  • Green tomatoes that are small, hard and opaque will not ripen, so keep these ones for frying, making salsa or chutney.
  • Green tomatoes that are fully grown and have more of a translucent quality  will likely ripen with the following methods.
  • Pick tomatoes that are not bruised or damaged by blight or frost. These are lost causes and will only give you trouble.
  • Keep the tomatoes out of direct sun once you bring them inside. They will ripen best when they are kept at temperatures between 17 and 22 degrees celsius. However you can put an almost ripe tomato on your sunny windowsill for a day to help boost the flavour of the fruit.

    Tomatoes damaged by frost

Paper Bag Them and Invite a Friend

Try sticking the green tomatoes in a paper bag. This traps the gas ethylene that causes ripening in the fruit. Make sure to fold the top closed.

To add to this trick add a ripe apple to the bag with them, the tomatoes can use the ethylene gas from the already ripened fruit.

Use boxes For Larger Amounts

If you have a lot of tomatoes you might want to use a cardboard box instead of a paper bag. Wrap the tomatoes in newspaper or spread them in layers with newspaper in between, no more than two layers deep. Make sure to give each tomato room so that they are not touching each other and if a tomato begins to rot, remove it promptly from the box.

If you are ripening a lot of tomatoes at once it would be helpful to sort them according to greenness to help you keep an eye on them and know when they will be ready.

Bring The Whole Plant Inside

If you are ready to get the plants out of your garden, or if a hard frost is coming, you can pull up the entire plant and bring it inside. Make sure to brush the dirt from the roots and hang the plants upside down in your garage or basement. Watch the tomatoes daily and remove them from the plant as they become ripe. Keep plants out of direct sunlight but not in total darkness. Make sure the plants have good air circulation between them.

Leave a short stem on tomato. This prevents creating an opening on the tomato for bacteria and other organisms to get into the fruit.

Green Tomatoes Are Delicious!

Two of my favorite green tomato recipes are for Salsa and Chutney. Green tomatoes are also an integral ingredient in Chow, and are delicious fried up with onions and butter.

Green Tomato Salsa


  •  6 Green tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  •  6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Pepper to taste
  • Chopped cilantro to taste

Mix ingredients together in a bowl and keep at room temperature for 2 hours before serving. Makes approx. 2 cups.

Green Tomato Chutney


  • 2 ½ pounds firm green tomatoes (about 6 cups diced)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  •  1 ½ cups brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •  1 ¼ cups cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger


Trim the stem and blossom ends from tomatoes and dice them. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook for about 1 hour, until thickened.

Spoon chutney into hot sterilized jars (you can sterilize jars by placing them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes), leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the jar rims and cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands.

Process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Makes about 3 pints of green tomato chutney.


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