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How To Ripen Late Season Green Tomatoes Off The Vine – 2 Simple Tricks That Work!

Looking for a way to ripen the last of your late season green tomatoes that still hang from your dying tomato plants – without having to keep your plants in the ground?

As summers draws to a close, tomato plants quickly start to lose their luster. The once proud plants that were flowering strong and producing tomatoes a few weeks back finally run out of steam and begin to turn pale and weak. But that doesn’t mean they still don’t have a few green or slightly blush tomatoes left on their branches to ripen!

It can be quite the dilemma for gardeners. Do you leave the plants in place and try to get a few more tomatoes to mature? Or do you finally give in to the unsightly plants and pull them out and give up?

ripen green late season tomatoes
Ripening the last of the green tomatoes on your plants off the vine can keep fresh tomatoes coming for a month or more!

The good news is this is one time when your really can have your cake and eat it too. Once your tomato plants take a turn for the worse – it’s actually far better to pull up the dying plants and clean up your garden. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still ripen the green tomatoes that were on the vines. In fact, it’s actually easier than you could ever imagine to simply ripen them off of the plant!

The Advantages Of Ripening Late Season Green Tomatoes Off The Vine

Not only can leaving old tomato plants in your garden or raised beds be an eyesore, it can also cause serious long-term issues for your garden.

Dying and decaying plants are a huge attraction for pests and disease. As the foliage dies off, pests take up residence to increase their populations for the following season. In addition, blight and mildew can take hold and overwinter as well.

Last but not least, all of the rotting and remaining fruit fall to the ground to litter it with seeds. Seeds that next year will become thousands of volunteer “plants” that will take energy from the plants you put in the ground. (See: How To Properly Get Rid Of Old Tomato Plants)

fall in a vegetable garden
The longer old tomato plants remain in the ground, the more problems they can cause.

That is exactly why pulling old plants as they fail is the best course of action. But when you do, it’s also the perfect time to pick those old plants clean of the remaining green or slightly pink tomatoes – and ripen them off the vine!

How To Ripen Late Season Green Tomatoes Off The Vine

Not only is maturing tomatoes off of the plant easy, it’s actually better for the tomato. Even during the peak of harvest season, it’s best to pick tomatoes before they completely turn.

Why? Because picking tomatoes early in the season helps both the plant and tomato. It helps the plant by conserving energy to use on creating more blossoms and tomatoes. And it helps the tomato by keeping it out of harms ways from pests, heat, sun scald, and more.

The fact is, tomatoes ripen better off the vine that on it. When given the proper air flow, temperature and humidity levels, they will turn faster than ever.

Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes do not need direct sunlight to ripen. In fact, they actually prefer shade over sun. In addition, they also ripen best at around 70 degrees with 80 to 90 percent humidity levels. And last but not least, they need good circulation.

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Luckily these are all conditions that can be created off the vine quite easily. And late in the season, it can let you not just ripen tomatoes that have started to turn, but your green tomatoes too!

Two Tricks To Ripen Late Season Tomatoes – How To Ripen Late Season Green Tomatoes

As you clear out your plants and pick off the remaining tomatoes, there are a few simple tricks to get the most from your remaining harvest.

One thing you don’t want to do is wash or clean off the tomatoes at this point. Doing so can actually cause them to rot before they ripen. Also be careful as you pick the fruit off to keep the tops in tact and damage free. Keep in mind the less you handle the tomatoes, the better.

Begin by discarding any tomatoes with blemishes, bruises or cuts. Also get rid of any that are not firm to the touch. They simply will not be able to ripen without rotting late in the season. Next, you need to separate the remaining harvest into two types – slightly turning tomatoes, and totally green tomatoes.

Ripening Tomatoes That Have Started To Turn – How To Ripen Late Season Green Tomatoes

For tomatoes that have already started to blush or slightly turn, ripening is a breeze. Because they have already started the process of ripening, it will take far less effort.

late season green tomatoes to ripen
These green tomatoes can still be ripened off the vine with a few simple tricks.

Find a location that is not in direct sun and that is cooler with at least a slight breeze. Covered porches can be great for this. The next best option is inside in a cool but not cold room. Again, keep them out of direct sunlight. Do not ripen in a basement as the moisture is often too high.

If doing this outside be aware that animals and pests can find them if not protected. It is certainly not past a racoon to visit a ripening station and take the pick of the crop!

Next, use a wire cooking rack or some other rack that allows air above and below the tomatoes. This will help to ripen all around evenly. Do not sit on metal or wood pans directly as the bottoms can rot out. If a breeze is not present, turning on a ceiling fan or small fan. See: Homemade Ripening / Drying Rack Plans

Using a fan for four to six hours each day will help give them air to ripen faster. It’s not necessary, but it will speed it up a bit. Turn the tomatoes carefully every day to help promote even ripening. Usually within 5 to 10 days, depending on how much the tomato had already turned, your tomatoes will be ripe.

Ripening Late Season Green Tomatoes Off The Vine

If your late season tomatoes are totally green, you will need to take an extra step to help them out. This is because since they have not “broke” or started to turn, they need to get to that point before the air rack method will work well.

tomato ripening rack
A simple wire baking rack will ripen tomatoes with ease. It keeps tomatoes up and allows for great airflow under and above.

To help your green tomatoes get started, all you need is a brown paper bag and a banana. Simply place the green tomatoes in the bag along with the banana. Next, fold the top of the paper bag so it is closed and let it go for a few days.

The ethylene gas in the banana will help to speed the ripening and start to turn the green tomatoes. Once they have started to blush or slightly turn – then all you have to do is take them out and place them on the wire rack or mesh. And the rest, as they say, is history – as the tomatoes can finish ripening and you can enjoy more tomatoes than ever!

Here is to pulling those old tomato plants and picking the last of your late season tomatoes – and getting them to ripen off the vine!

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