Tomatoes ripen best on vine when the temperature stays around 75 degrees

September 22, 2021

Tomatoes are probably the most popular garden vegetable in America, with 93 percent of American gardeners growing their own tomatoes. And yes, tomatoes are technically classified as fruit because they contain seeds and grow from the flower of the tomato plant.

Tomatoes are the biggest dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease and even cancer. Tomatoes also contain potassium, vitamin B, vitamin E and fiber.

Every year, the small Spanish town of Buñol hosts the world's largest food fight when 40,000 people throw 150,000 tomatoes at each other.

Admittedly late in the season when the tomato plants just will not stop producing, one is tempted to toss the tomatoes. Especially the green ones.

You can, of course, eat the green tomatoes while they are green in salsas, chutneys and even baked like eggplant in green tomato Parmesan. Pickled green tomatoes are slightly sweet, yet tangy and spicy, much like bread-and-butter pickles. Or you can cook all of your green tomatoes into the infamous fried green tomatoes, where slices of green tomatoes are coated in egg and flour, cornmeal and breadcrumbs, then fried crispy.

Tomatoes ripen best on the vine when the temperature stays around 75 degrees.

But getting tomatoes to ripen off the vine is a trick most gardeners learn by chance. One common misconception about ripening tomatoes off the vine is that you need a lot of light, although sunlight isn’t actually needed. Tomatoes give off a gas called ethylene that helps them ripen. Apples also give off ethylene, so you can store unripe tomatoes with apples so they ripen faster.

Simply keep the tomatoes at room temperature and do not expose them to direct sunlight. Store them in a breathable container such as a cardboard box or a paper bag.

Avoid storing tomatoes in plastic bags or sealed containers because they can trap too much humidity, causing the tomatoes to rot.

Do not refrigerate unripe tomatoes, because temperatures below 50 degrees will kill the ripening enzymes and slow down the ripening process. Refrigeration decreases the flavor and overall quality of even red, ripe tomatoes. The cold temperatures change the texture of the tomato, breaking down the membranes inside the fruit walls and turning the flesh mealy.

Even as fall turns cooler, keep your tomato plants well-watered. This will can help prevent common tomato diseases, including blossom end rot and even blight. If your plants go from wet to dry, they are susceptible to blossom end rot, which is related to calcium levels. During low water times, tomato plants may not be able to uptake enough calcium from the soil.

So, bring your unripe green tomatoes into the house and store them out of direct sunlight, and soon enough you will have luscious ripe tomatoes to eat on sandwiches, or toss into salads, then at each other.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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