Garden Q&A: Ripen green tomatoes in paper bag
Q: I have a lot of tomatoes that are still green on my plants. Should I leave them be? Will they still ripen? Or should I take them off and just use them green?
A: Unless we get another warm, sunny spell, it is unlikely that your tomatoes will ripen this late in the season. If you leave the fruits on the plants and we get a hard frost, they'll soften and be unusable. Because of this, I suggest you harvest the fruits green and force ripen them.
This technique will not work on underdeveloped tomatoes, but for those that have reached their mature size and already have a touch of color, it works very nicely. Select only unblemished fruits and cut them from the vine rather than pulling them off (which can damage the skin and cause rot to develop). Leave the stem attached.
Place two or three unripe tomatoes in a brown paper bag with an apple, and roll the top closed. As the apple continues to ripen in the bag, it naturally produces ethylene gas, a plant hormone responsible for the ripening process. The gas trapped in the bag will cause the tomatoes to ripen. How long this process takes depends on the maturity of the fruit. It can happen in a day or two, or take up to two weeks. Peek in the bag every day or two to check. Ethylene gas is used to ripen early-harvested tomatoes, bananas, pears and other commercially grown fruits en route to market.
You also can allow any fruits that have developed some color to ripen on a countertop. Keep them out of direct sunlight and away from excessive heat and cold, and place them on their shoulders rather than on their blossom ends. Only about half of the tomatoes you'll pick in this state will ripen via this method. Use the paper bag and apple method if you want a better chance of success.
There's also a lot you can do with green tomatoes. Fried green tomatoes, pickled green tomatoes, salsa verde, green tomato jam, and even pasta sauce call for the unripe fruits. A quick Internet search for “green tomato recipes” provides you with more recipes than you'll ever need.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- FBI searches for suspect in Homestead bank robbery
- Secretary enters conspiracy plea for helping boss hide millions from IRS
- Tomlin: Steelers as healthy as can be expected at this point in season
- Hempfield man fights off intruders
- Colter, Mason lead Duquesne past Milwaukee in OT
- New North Shore parking garage plan moves forward
- Steelers not giving up on wresting AFC North from Bengals
- McIntyre students hope Buddy Bench is beneficial to all
- Rookie linebacker Chickillo adjusting to role with Steelers
- Starkey: Farewell to NHL fighting
- Boston couple deliver fresh, seasonal cuisine at Hampton’s Hartwood Restaurant