After-ripening tomatoes: this is how it’s done

unripe tomatoes
unripe tomatoes

Tomatoes are among the few vegetables that can be allowed to after-ripen indoors after harvest. Here are the best ways to after-ripen tomatoes.

Tomatoes can be wonderfully after-ripened indoors. In this respect, the fruiting vegetable differs from many other vegetables that are not “climacteric”. The ripening gas ethylene plays an important role in after-ripening. Tomatoes produce this substance themselves, release it into the environment and thus also control their own ripening. There is no need to dispose of unripe, green tomatoes: if they are left to after-ripen, they will continue to develop.

When should you let tomatoes after-ripening?

Ideally, you harvest tomatoes only when they have reached full ripeness. This is the case when they have developed their typical color. This does not necessarily have to be red, for example, there are also yellow, green, cream or orange tomato varieties. When pressed lightly, the ripe fruits yield somewhat. However, in some cases, you can not wait until the tomatoes are fully ripe. Especially at the end of the season, in late summer and autumn, you need to act: if the temperatures drop and the hours of sunlight decrease, the last tomatoes usually can not ripen. At the latest before the first night of frost, they are then picked and brought indoors for after-ripening.

However, after-ripening indoors can also be useful in the summer, when cool or rainy weather is forecast. If the fruit is brought indoors in good time, it remains healthy and does not burst, as is often the case with heavy rain showers after a dry period. Harvesting healthy, intact tomatoes early is also important to prevent late blight from spreading to them. This is because the fungal disease, which occurs mainly in humid weather, can also affect the fruit.

What is the best way to after-ripen tomatoes?

For after-ripening, place the undamaged, unripe harvested tomatoes individually next to each other in a box or on a tray and place them in a warm place. Contrary to many opinions, it is not light that is decisive for the formation of the red pigment in tomatoes, but above all sufficient heat: the ideal temperature for the post-ripening of tomatoes is around 18 to 20 °C / 64 to 68 °F. The ripening process can be accelerated by placing the undamaged, unripe tomatoes one after the other in a box or tray and placing them in a warm place. To accelerate the after-ripening, it has also proven useful to additionally wrap the tomatoes in newspaper or place them in a paper bag. You can also put an apple with the tomatoes: The fruit also emits ethylene, which causes the fruit vegetables to ripen faster. It is best to check the condition of the tomatoes every day. After three weeks at the latest, the ripening process should be complete and the tomatoes should have taken on their typical color.

If there are still a lot of unripe tomatoes hanging on a plant at the end of the season, you can alternatively dig up the healthy tomato plant along with the roots. Then hang it upside down in a warm place, for example in the boiler room or laundry room. This way you can continue harvesting for at least two more weeks. Tomato plants that are already affected by blight should be disposed of in the household trash. However, individual healthy fruits can ripen in a warm room.

What does after-ripening mean for the aroma?

Even if you bring the unripe, green tomatoes into the house ahead of time, you should be patient and not consume them directly: They contain the toxic alkaloid solanine, which only recedes as they ripen. When tomatoes ripen classically on the plant in sunlight, they develop a unique, sweet aroma. After-ripening fruits can differ somewhat in taste: Thus, the aroma in them is often not quite as intense. If the tomatoes have received little sunlight before harvesting in the fall, they can also taste somewhat watery.

Should tomatoes from the supermarket be allowed to after-ripen?

Tomatoes sold in supermarkets often have to endure long transport routes. It is not uncommon for them to be harvested unripe and then sprayed with ethylene to induce ripening. If they are still not fully ripe at their destination, they can also be allowed to ripen at home as described above. But beware: not all green tomatoes on the vegetable shelf are actually unripe. In the meantime, many green-fruited varieties are also offered there.

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