By August/September time, many of us gardener’s are nervously looking at our tomato plants wondering if they are going to ripen. Most tomato plants will continue to produce flowers well into September, and sometimes even longer. These late flowers are highly unlikely to become fruits so they are best removed so that the plant can concentrate its energies on the fruit that has already formed. Also, make sure that you have pinched out the top of the plant and continue to pinch out any side shoots. Again, this helps the plant to concentrate its energies.
Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes do not ripen well on windowsills. If you look at your tomato plants, you will notice that the first to ripen are usually those on the back of the plant, away from the sun. Plenty of light is not required to ripen tomatoes and often only serves to make the skin harder.
The key factor in ripening tomatoes is temperature. The warmer a tomato is, the quicker it will ripen. It is possible for you to ripen tomatoes quicker by putting them somewhere warm or slower if you put them somewhere cooler.
Another factor in ripening tomatoes is the gas ethylene. This is used commercially to ripen fruits, including tomatoes, that are picked green and then ripened before they are sold. Ethylene is naturally released by ripening fruits, most notably bananas.
Put your tomatoes in a single layer in a cardboard box lined with newspaper, making sure they aren’t touching. Cover them with another piece of newpaper and put somewhere warm. Put 5-10 tomatoes in a paper bag and put them in a warm location To speed up ripening, put a ripe banana with your tomatoes.
Another method is to hang the whole plant upside down in a frost free zone and leave the tomatoes to ripen. This is best done just before the frosts arrive as the cold will kill the plants and damage the fruit. This method is said to produce much better tasting tomatoes than any of the others.
Regularly check the tomatoes you are ripening for signs of disease or damage. Any damaged fruits need to be removed and either used imemdiately or disposed of.
At temperatures of between 50-60F/10-15C, ripening can take as much as 3-4 weeks. At temperatures of 65-70F/18-21C, tomatoes can ripen in two weeks. If you store batches of tomatoes at different temperatures, then you can stagger the ripening. Storing at temperatures below 50F/10C will yield poor results.
If your tomatoes are slow to ripen, don’t panic! They need warmth so you can either move them into a greenhouse or under cover or start to pick the fruit, if it is later in the season, and ripen it using the methods above.
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