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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

Four Methods:Jar method - For a few tomatoesCardboard box method - For many tomatoesPlastic bag method - For a few or many tomatoesPaper bag method - For a few tomatoes

End of the season and you're still left with a bumper crop of green tomatoes? Here are some simple suggestions for ripening them up, making use of nature's own ripening gas, ethylene.


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    Harvest regularly. For each of these methods, always check regularly. If you can, pick green tomatoes that have a tinge of color at the blossom end and feel a little softer than the solid young fruits.[1] If you pick them any earlier than this, they will not have matured and thus will not ripen at all. Cook immature green tomatoes as is.
    • If you're not sure whether your green tomatoes are mature, cut a questionable tomato in half--if it has yellowish interiors and jelly-like or sticky tissue, it is mature enough to ripen.[2] Obviously, the one that you cut in half won't ripen, but observing how it looks on the outside will give you an idea of what to look for with green tomatoes on the vine.
    • If you know there's a frost coming that will ruin all of the tomatoes, don't pick individual tomatoes; lift the entire plant out of the ground, making sure that some roots are still attached. Shake off as much dirt as you can and hang it upright in a dry, sheltered location, such as the garage. Avoid extremes (direct sunlight, total darkness). your tomatoes will die! The tomatoes will still ripen almost as well as they would have on the vine.[3]
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    Before storage, always remove vines, twigs, stems, leaves etc. that might rub on other tomatoes and cause damage during the ripening process. If the tomatoes are dirty, wash them gently first and allow to air dry before trying to ripen them.
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    Use one of the techniques outlined below to store and ripen the tomatoes off the vine.
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    Keep an eye out for decay or mold. If you see any, remove the affected tomatoes immediately and give the tomatoes more air circulation. The cooler the storage area for the tomatoes, the longer the ripening process will be. Expect about 2 weeks for ripening under normal, warm household conditions. If the house or storage area is too cold, the tomatoes may never ripen or will result in flavour-less tomatoes.

Method 1
Jar method - For a few tomatoes

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    Assemble the jars and remove the lids.
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    Put in one ripening banana per jar.
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    Put in two to four medium-sized green tomatoes per jar. Do not overfill the jar, or the tomatoes might bruise.
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    Screw on lid tightly.
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    Leave in a warm, semi-humid place, out of direct sunlight. Check regularly - if your banana starts to rot before the tomatoes are ready, remove it and replace with a new banana. This method should leave you with ripened tomatoes within one - two weeks.

Method 2
Cardboard box method - For many tomatoes

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    Prepare a cardboard box. If possible, add some foam or fruit cardboard in the base; or simply line with newspaper.
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    Place a layer of tomatoes in the box, each one next to the other. If you have a lot of tomatoes, a second layer on top is okay but be gentle. Do not make any more than two layers in case you bruise the fruit at the base. You may add multiple layers of tomatoes by using about 6 pages of black and white newspaper in between each layer. You must check more frequently for ripening fruit. Do not add bananas to this box, unless you plan on using a large quantity of tomatoes at one time.
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    Add some ripening bananas if you'd like. The tomatoes are likely to ripen anyway, as they release their own ethylene and influence each other. However, using bananas will help to speed up the process.
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    Place the box in a cool, slightly humid room away from light. A pantry shelf is ideal if you have one.

Method 3
Plastic bag method - For a few or many tomatoes

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    Assemble plastic bags. Punch a few "air circulation" holes in each bag you are going to use.
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    Place 3 - 4 tomatoes with 1 banana in each bag. Depending on the size of your bag, you may be able to add more (or perhaps less). Be guided by the size of the bag, tomatoes and banana.
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    Store in a warm, semi-humid area away from direct sunlight.

Method 4
Paper bag method - For a few tomatoes

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    Open paper bag and insert ripening banana and amount of tomatoes as will fit.
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    Store in a warm, semi-humid area away from sunlight.
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    This method is useful where you don't have a lot of room and you only have a few tomatoes.


  • The bananas must be "ripening" - they are at their most useful when they are yellow with green on the ends. All ripening fruit produce ethylene, a gas that helps ripen the fruit. Bananas are not the only fruit you can use but they generally produce so much ripening gas in comparison to other fruits that they provide the best "booster" source of ethylene. And, unlike tomatoes, bananas ripen very well after they have been picked.
  • For the best flavour, eat the tomatoes as soon as they have ripened. They will gradually lose their flavour after about one week of storage in the refrigerator.
  • This will also work to ripen green peppers (capsicums).
  • Humidity is also an important factor for indoor ripening. Too much humidity can encourage rotting (and the dreaded fruit flies); too little humidity and you might end up with dehydrated tomatoes. Keep a close eye on their progress and adjust things as you see fit.
  • This makes a great science experiment for kids as well. It is another way to enthuse them with the joys of harvesting from one's own garden.
  • Removing some heavy green tomatoes from plants a few weeks before frost will help the remaining tomatoes on the vine ripen more quickly because the plant will allocate more energy towards them.[4]


  • Tomatoes already hit by the first frost are no good either; get them before the frost does!
  • Don't waste your time with diseased or insect-ridden fruit; salvage only the good quality green tomatoes.
  • Even though the tomatoes will ripen using any of the above methods, the flavor and texture will never be as sweet and/or meaty as that of a tomato that's allowed to ripen on a live plant.[5]
  • Don't put the tomatoes in the light. Only the plants (particularly the leaves) need sunlight; the tomatoes themselves ripen best in the dark.[6]

Things You'll Need

  • Green tomatoes, freshly picked off the vine (unless using vine method)
  • Jar method: One ripening banana per jar, 1 large jar for every 3 medium-sized tomatoes; jar must have lid
  • Cardboard box method: Cardboard box with room for many tomatoes, ripening bananas (optional) - several per box, dependent on box size
  • Plastic bag method: Plastic bags (large, clear, kitchen variety), ripening banana per bag
  • Paper bag method: Paper bags (lunch bags are ideal), ripening banana per bag
  • On the vine method: Shovel to dig up plant, string or wire to hang it

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