How to Encourage Tomatoes to Mature

Growing Vegetables
Tomatoes Mature

Tomatoes take some time to be ripe. We all know this, and we've all been in a situation to buy tomatoes that were still too firm. A tomato can be red on the outside but it doesn't mean that it's fully ripen. This is a problem all gardeners should know.

If you want to grow tomatoes, you need to know how to tell when they are fully ripen. Even more, it will be helpful to know ho to ripen them a bit faster. Luckily, there are several tricks that can help you get those fully ripen tomatoes as quickly as possible.

Make Tomatoes to Ripen

There are several handy tips and tricks on making tomatoes to ripen. This is particularly useful near the end of the growing season, when you do want your tomatoes to ripen on the vine as soon as possible.

To get the best results, try these tricks:

  • Make sure that your tomato plants are in perfect health. Remove any diseased leaves and pinch off all the new flowers. This way, all the plant's energy will go into producing fruit.
  • Observe your tomato on a daily basis and remove any fruit that is ready. This way, the plant's energy will be able to go to the fruits left on the vine. You will recognize them by their nice red color but they won't be soft enough yet.
  • Don't go overboard with watering: reducing the amount of water will usually speed up the process.
  • Boos the plant's energy before it's time to harvest by feeding it with some nice compost tea.

You need to pay attention on the climate. In case there's a danger that the frost might develop, you need to get the harvest inside. The good news is that you can finish them on the vine even in these conditions.

To do this successfully:

  • Carefully, pull up the plants and brush off the dirt from the roots. Hang them upside down indoors (your garage or basement is a good place for that).
  • Observe the plant daily and remove the fruit that's ready.
  • Make sure to keep the plants out of direct sunlight. On the other hand, don't keep it in total darkness.
  • It's important to ensure good air circulation between plants. This will make the best effect and help you get all that tasty fruit.

Finish Tomatoes Off the Vine

Sometimes, you will have to do that above process when tomatoes are off the vine. You can use a following method when you observe that the frost is approaching:

  • Pick all the fruit from the plant, even the green ones. Sort them carefully according to level of maturity and size. Make sure to set aside those that are damaged or bruised.
  • Remove the stems. Carefully, wipe off the dirt from tomato fruit using a dry cloth.
  • Take a look at all the fruit. Save the smaller ones for cooking.
  • The larger ones (about 3/4 size of a mature tomato) you can finish off the vine. There are several ways to do it.
  • You may wrap each individual fruit in newspaper. Lay them all in shallow cardboard boxes or in bunches between sheets of newspaper. Make sure that they don't touch each other. Store them in a dark, cool place. You should check them regularly and remove the mature ones. You should also monitor your tomatoes to find any rotting fruit you might need to remove from the box. It's important to do that straight away to save the other fruit (one rotten fruit can ruin the whole bunch).
  • Another thing you can do is to layer tomatoes in a shallow box (styrofoam peanuts work the best). Make sure to leave enough room between individual fruits, to ensure good air circulation. Monitor them daily and remove the mature fruit.
  • Make sure you are always gentle when handling tomato fruits or else you can damage them.

Ethylene Boosters

There is one important thing you need to know about ethylene. This is a gas that fruit naturally produces. This gas help simulate ripening. Therefore, it's not surprising there are many ethylene boosters to help you increase ethylene levels.

For a bit of ethylene boosting, try these tricks:

  • Place tomatoes in a paper bag and then add an apple. Make sure to fold bag closed. The apple will add the ethylene gas to the one produced by the tomatoes, which will speed up the ripening.
  • Place tomatoes in a container with a banana. Make sure that the banana still has a bit of green on the peel. Seal the container closed.
  • Place tomatoes in a brown paper bag and fold over the top to close.
  • Place tomatoes in a plastic bag with several holes (about the size of toothpick). Seal the bag closed.

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips and tricks about tomatoes, making them ripen and getting the best fruit:

  • Arrange tomato fruits stem side up so they won't rot quickly.
  • To prolong the growing season and to keep tomatoes in the garden even during the cold days, make sure to protect the plants during night. It's best done by covering them with sheets, burlap or tarp. Make sure to remove the protection during the day. When hard frost is approaching, however, you will need to remove tomatoes from the garden before the frost hits.
  • Make sure to sort all the tomato fruits properly. For example, keep the green ones with a bit of pink around the stem area together in a separate box. These will be fastest to mature. This way, you will always be able to find them easily.
  • To get the best flavor, set tomatoes that are close to maturing in a warm window for a day or two before you use them. This will improve their flavor.
  • In case the green ones start to shrivel instead to ripen, it's probably because the storage place is not humid enough.
  • In case the green ones develop mold or start to rot before they are mature, it's probably because the storage place is too humid for them.
  • If the storage place is too cold, the tomatoes will have no taste. It's important to keep them somewhere where temperature is at least 55 degrees F.

If, despite all your efforts, the tomatoes won't ripen, they are either too small or stored in a place that's too cool for them to mature.

Photo credit: Mark Robinson

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