Tomatofilter: why won't mine ripen?
August 31, 2008 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Tomatofilter: Why aren't my tomatoes red?

The mister and I have a small garden in Denver, Colorado. We got a Roma tomato and it's got plenty of green fruit on it (has had for weeks now) but so far I've seen no signs of ripening. This plant was put in from a 6" pot in early-mid June. It's extremely healthy and shows no signs of blight, fungus, etc. It just continues to throw green fruits that won't ripen.

My concern is the short growing season here. Nights here are already going down to the low 50s F, and we've already had our first autumn snowstorm up at 9000' (we're at 5,280). If these don't ripen up soon then I'll have to build a cold frame or something which I'm not really eager to deal with.

How can I encourage the fruits to ripen?

Or, alternatively, what can I do with dozens of green tomatoes? I don't much like them fried, before you ask.
posted by lonefrontranger to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
what can I do with dozens of green tomatoes

Set them on sunny windowsills inside for a while.
posted by dilettante at 9:59 AM on August 31, 2008

This recent thread had information on how you could make the green tomatoes ripen off the plant if the first frost comes.

Failing that, you could make green tomato chutney (lots of recipes if you google it).
posted by Helga-woo at 10:01 AM on August 31, 2008

Best answer: Try two things: top them by pinching off any new growth at the top, so the plants don't try and make more new vines/fruit. Also prune the roots by going around the base of the plant with a spade. This stresses the plant and again encourages it to focus on ripening the fruit rather than growing any more. See this thread for more information.

Also think about ways to protect the plants from frost including making a small tent of plastic that you can put over the plants to keep them from overnight frost.

In any case don't start picking unripe tomatoes till the plants have been thoroughly frost-killed or they are actively dropping the fruit. Windowsill ripening is your last resort since the fruit won't be quite as nice as vine ripening!
posted by drmarcj at 10:09 AM on August 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

We planted in May and only got red toms a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like an eternity that they were green. I say give them a couple of more weeks.
posted by Frasermoo at 10:25 AM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't have any advice for extending this season, but for next season, start the plants out earlier with these. That website also sells red plastic mulch fabric, which is supposed to help ripening times.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:39 AM on August 31, 2008

To ripen tomatoes, pick them, and put them in a paper bag with a couple of bananas which are nearly ripe, and leave them on the counter in your kitchen for a day or two. The bananas give off ethylene gas, which causes tomatoes to ripen.
posted by Class Goat at 10:46 AM on August 31, 2008

Are you sure they're SUPPOSED to be red? Some heirloom tomato varieties (German green, Green Zebra, Cherokee Green, Lime Green Salad) stay green even when they're ripe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:22 AM on August 31, 2008

Aaaaaaand I just noticed that you have a Roma. Whoops. Sorry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:24 AM on August 31, 2008

Prune back some of the leaves and stems so that the fruits get exposed to more sunlight. If it's getting cold at night, you can always cover your plants with a sheet and take it off in the morning. You might have selected a Roma variety that takes longer to grow. It's also possible that you have a critter (squirrels are the worse) who is stealing tomatoes off your plant.
posted by pluckysparrow at 12:17 PM on August 31, 2008

Seconding, definitely putting them in a paper bag will do it, and a ripe banana can speed things up, though it is not required. Check them every few days and pick out the red ones. If they are all ripening too fast, take the banana out! The bag keeps in the gases and it keeps out the fruit flies. Works great.
posted by Listener at 1:26 PM on August 31, 2008

Best answer: Romas can take a really long time to get color. Hang in there. If there's still no color when the frost hits, follow the paper bag advice upthread.
posted by nax at 1:40 PM on August 31, 2008

The reason for using a paper bag instead of a plastic bag is that a plastic bag traps moisture, and increases the chance of mold.
posted by Class Goat at 4:09 PM on August 31, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I didn't realise Romas are one of the longer-ripening varieties. Now I know.

I think I'll get some plastic sheet and make a DIY cold frame thingy. I don't think these are going to make it before it freezes somehow.

I appreciate the advice on pruning/forcing the plant to get its act together, too. If you haven't guessed already, I'm a pretty indifferent gardener.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:20 PM on August 31, 2008

In the future you might try Early Girls, which ripen fast and also don't seem to require the intense heat of other tomatoes in order to do so.
posted by padraigin at 9:13 PM on August 31, 2008

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