How to Ripen a Tomato FAST!

Ripening Tomatoes at End of Season

As the summer begins to wind down, cool autumn breezes blow in from the north. Shortly thereafter, your tomato vines will begin to succumb to the changing seasons.

When a freeze is imminent, it’s the end of the line for your plants. You’ll have to pull each and every green tomato off of the vines if you don’t want to lose them.

All of these green tomatoes won’t do you too much good until they’re ready to eat; ripening tomatoes at end of season is generally accomplished by leaving the fruits on the counters or in boxes in the pantry.

On the flip side, there are a few tricks that you can use to speed this process along. You can have tasty, ripe tomatoes quite a few days earlier than it would normally take with some of these methods.

Ripening Tomatoes In Newspaper

Have you ever heard of using newspaper to ripen tomatoes quickly? No? Well, this is a wonderful, old-school trick that your grandparents likely used!

Newspaper was found in abundance in many homes, and it still is in some. As we’ve moved away from the delivery of printed publications and towards digital ones that we can access instantly, newspaper isn’t as plentiful in homes as it once was.

For those of you who still keep the local paper on hand, you’ll be happy to find that you can use a few sheets to ripen those green tomatoes! When you wrap a tomato with newspaper, you’re trapping the gasses that the fruit produces; one of those is ethylene, which is what aides in the ripening process. When trapped and kept close to the tomato, the concentrated gas accelerates the ripening process.

If you grab several tomatoes and wrap them in newspaper, you’ll have a meal’s worth of tomatoes ripened several days earlier than they would have on the counter. Be sure to keep them tucked away in a box in a single layer during this process, and watch out for any signs of mold or rot.

Ripen Tomatoes In a Brown Paper Bag

Do you have brown lunch sacks hanging out in your cabinets? If so, this is one of the go-to methods for ripening fruit. I use this method quite often with avocados, as they’re always green and immature when I buy them. However, this trick works just as well for tomatoes!

Just like newspaper, this method works by trapping the ethylene that the tomatoes produce. As the ethylene concentration grows, the tomatoes ripen faster and faster. I prefer this method, personally; it’s easier to open a lunch bag, place a few tomatoes or avocados inside, and fold it down. With newspaper, you have to crumple and wrap it around each fruit. Brown paper bags will cost a little more and generally have other purposes to serve in the home, unlike the massive box of newspapers that is consistently growing in the basement of a subscriber’s home. Add a banana to speed the ripening process even more!

How to Ripen Tomatoes before Frost

If you know that fall is around the corner and you’re worried about the green tomatoes that are still on the vines, you may want to look into the process of topping tomato plants.

When you top tomato plants, you’re redirecting the plant’s energy towards ripening immature fruits. The more growth, flowers, and fruit a plant puts on, the longer it takes for the existing tomatoes to ripen. Thus, you’ll have to stop this new growth from occurring if you want the plant to finish the ripening process before the weather becomes cold.

I learned how to ripen tomatoes before frost over the course of several years, and I have a few more tricks that you could try out in that post.

Things to Watch Out for While Ripening Green Tomatoes

As you ripen green tomatoes, you need to keep an eye out on them. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • If tomatoes develop sunken spots, remove them and toss them. They’re beginning to rot.
  • If a tomato begins to show discoloration that isn’t normal for the particular variety (yellowing, browning, or black spots), toss it.
  • If a tomato begins growing mold, get rid of it and check your tomatoes for moisture. Add moisture packets to the box to reduce humidity within the box; too much moisture is an open invitation for fungi.
  • If you begin to see fruit flies or if you smell rotting fruit, be sure that you eliminate all traces of rotting tomatoes. Fruit flies should be controlled before they have an opportunity to infiltrate the tomatoes that are still healthy and ripening.

As a rule of thumb, you should check on your tomatoes every 2 to 3 days. If a majority of the tomatoes are close to being ripe, begin checking them daily so that you can remove ripened or nearly ripened fruits as needed. If you intend to store tomatoes for winter, you should only keep the firmest, blemish free, and damage free tomatoes for fresh storage.

Some will ripen much quicker than others, so please keep this in mind when they develop blushes of color. If a ripened tomato sits for too long, it’ll begin to rot; especially when it is surrounded by ethylene.