When the summer starts to wind down, and the early frost warnings start to kick in before you settle in for a long winter’s nap, you probably have a few fledgling tomato plants left. If they’re like mine, they’re probably not pretty; a bit of disease starts to crop up, leaves are beginning to change with the season, but yet…the tomatoes live on. Once it’s colder, though, they’re just not changing color anymore (or at least not quickly), and you’ll want to know how to ripen tomatoes quickly so you can get your lunch on.
You might run into this dilemma during the early summer too, maybe you just want a darn tomato basil mozzarella salad, and all your ‘maters are in that half-way stage. In any case, there are lots of ways to get them to the finish line more quickly.
How to Ripen Tomatoes Quickly with Ethylene
A couple of the methods below use ethylene as the magic ripening ingredient, and for a good reason – it works! As fruits like bananas, apples, and tomatoes ripen, they release a gas called ethylene, which tells all the other fruits to get to work ripening and release their own ethylene. It’s also used commercially to ripen fruit for sale.
The Paper Bag Method
If you’re asking your grandmother how to ripen a tomato, she’s probably going to tell you about the paper bag method. This tried-and-true method for how to ripen tomatoes quickly has been passed down for generations.
Loosely fill a small paper (lunch) bag with up to 6 healthy, non-diseased, unbruised tomatoes and make sure they’re not packed tight. Packing them tightly won’t allow for proper aeration, and they can grow mold.
Add a banana or even an apple that is ripening to the bag. As that fruit ripens, it releases ethylene, which speeds up the ripening process of tomatoes. Don’t expect any fast miracles with green tomatoes, but if they’ve begun to color and they’re placed in a warm spot, you could get red tomatoes in as early as a week.
You might be thinking, “can I ripen tomatoes more quickly by putting them in a sealed plastic bag instead?” Technically yes, you’ll trap more ethylene. However, you also trap humidity and moisture, so your chances of mold increase.
The Hanging Method
I love this method for autumn, when it’s time to start cleaning up the garden, and your indeterminate tomatoes are still persistently growing. If you have a group of tomatoes, simply cut the whole stem with the bunch, then tie a string around the bottom of the stem, and hang them upside down in your home; This could be on the back of a door, or anywhere. If you want your tomatoes to last longer, hang them in a cooler place out of sunlight, and you can get tomatoes ripening for a month or more. If you want your tomatoes to ripen quickly, place them in a warmer, sunnier spot.
The Newspaper Method
If you have a large batch of tomatoes, put them in a cardboard box or even a drawer, in single layers, with newspaper between them. You can also wrap them in newspaper individually instead, although checking on them for ripeness can get tedious this way. As the tomatoes ripen, they release ethylene. If I wanted to know how to ripen tomatoes quickly in bulk, this is how I would go.
If you want to know how to ripen tomatoes quickly, these are certainly your best bets. And the warmer the environment, the faster they’ll ripen. However, if you want your tomatoes to last for canning and are having trouble keeping up, a cooler climate will complement that process.