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  • Writer's pictureWest Island News

How to force tomatoes to ripen for your next holiday soup

image courtesy of, tomatoes, tomatoes on vine, orange and green tomatoes

It’s officially harvesting season! It’s time for soups, stews, and roasts. Thanksgiving will surely bring butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash to the forefront of our dinner plates. Chicken, beef, and tomato broths will certainly bring comfort and warmth as the colder months settle in.

Whether you grow tomatoes in your backyard or purchase them from your local farmer, there’s a strong chance at one point or another they haven’t ripened as quickly as you’d hoped. Grandma’s macaroni calls for ripe, red, juicy tomatoes but yours are yellow and tough. You head to the yard to grab tomatoes off the vine and are saddened to find green buds instead of vibrant, fully ripe tomatoes in their place.

There are a few ways you can gently encourage your tomatoes to ripen, so they’ll be good and ready for that recipe you’ve been dying to try, or that salad you promised to bring to the potluck.

Forcing tomatoes on the vine to ripen:

1. Trim

By removing your tomato plant’s lower leaves, you give it more time to spend energy on the production of fruit. Do also be sure to remove damaged, dry, and bruised leaves or tomatoes as these may hinder the ripening process.

2. Stop diseased leaves in their tracks

Be aware of spotted, moldy, or pest-infested leaves as these once again slow the plant’s growth.

3. Cut down on watering

As your tomatoes near full ripeness cut back on watering as this will encourage to mature completely. Experts further suggest watering your soil rather than the plant itself.

4. Insulate

As the temperature inevitably continues to dip each night, be sure to provide your tomatoes a little extra warmth by wrapping them in a plastic tarp or strip of burlap. Trick your tomatoes into thinking it’s warmer and dryer at night!

5. Be on the lookout

Although it often doesn’t feel fast enough, the ripening process does actually happen rather quickly. Be sure to check on your tomatoes daily as they can turn from green to bright red in less than 24 hours.

Forcing tomatoes off the vine to ripen:

If you picked tomatoes that are a bit too green for your liking, or the supermarket had nothing super ripe at your last visit, there are a couple of sure-fire ways to encourage them to ripen even more.

Sunny days: Tomatoes thrive in sunny, warm environments. Place them by a big window with lots of sun and watch the magic happen in just a few short days.

Ethylene: Ethylene gas, which is released by fruits as they ripen – such as apples and bananas – actually encourages tomatoes to ripen themselves. Place your tomatoes with a ripe banana in a paper bag or paper towel for a few days and watch them turn from green to red. Alternatively, experts suggest placing your underripe tomatoes in a sealed container. The ethylene produced from the tomatoes themselves will in fact further encourage them to ripen.

Some things to consider:

When planting tomatoes, do your research on the variety of tomatoes you are going to plant. Some tomatoes are bright red at their ripest while others are bright purple, yellow, or pink. Knowing what you’ve planted allows you to know when your tomatoes are good and ripe.

Ripe tomatoes have smooth, shiny skin with minimal spots or bruising. They should feel slightly firm in your hand when you give them a gentle squeeze.

When plucking tomatoes from the vine, grab them in your hand and twist the stem away from the plant. Ripe tomatoes will release from the stem without resistance.


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