Penny Golightly and the Green Tomatoes That Would Not Ripen

Last year I grew a few tomato plants and they were tasty so this year I grew a few more. I went for more varieties this time round, but they nearly all ended up with the same thing in common – the tomatoes wouldn’t ripen (apart from the Yellow Pear toms which I’ll certainly be growing again next year).

It was mainly down to two things. Firstly I didn’t plant out some of the tomato seedlings until July so they didn’t all get the chance to get up to speed. Secondly the summer didn’t have enough sun until it was kind of too late.

I did eventually get most of these stubbornly green tomatoes to ripen, so here are a few tips if you find yourself with the same problem.

If your green tomatoes are still on the plant, there are two main things you can do:

1. Move tomatoes in pots or growbags so they’re in the sunniest and warmest spot in the garden.

2. If your tomatoes are cordon tomatoes (also called vine tomatoes, or indeterminate tomatoes) rather than bushy/determinate tomatoes, you might need to limit their growth so they put their efforts into growing and ripening fruit instead of growing lots more leaves and stems. Nip out sideshoots with your thumb and forefinger when you see them starting to form, and also ‘stop’ the plant (usually done in August) once it’s formed for or five trusses (bunches of tomato flowers) by nipping out the top of the main vine.

If the green tomatoes are fully formed but they just won’t ripen, you can remove some of them from the plant to ripen separately. There are a couple of things to try, but avoid putting them all in a closed greenhouse on a sunny day as they’re more likely to cook and rot than go red.

Things to try if they’re already picked:

1. Pop them onto a windowsill and check them every couple of days.

2. Put them into a drawer/cardboard box/paper bag with a ripening banana. It gives off a gas that’s supposed to kick start the ripening process.

You might still end up with a few that stay stubbornly green. If that happens, cook them up. You can make fried green tomatoes, green tomato salsa (look for recipes that use tomatillos and use green toms plus a pinch of sugar), or green tomato and date chutney.

And of course there’s next year to think about.

Next year I’ll remember not to choose everything from the late ripening category. I’ll plant at least a couple of varieties that naturally ripen mid-season, and at least one tomato that does well in relatively cold weather. You can easily find this information out by looking at online seed catalogues from the big manufacturers.

After reading around the subject a bit, I think I’ll avoid the ones that ripen incredibly early though as they sound kind of watery and flavourless. If it isn’t tasty, it isn’t making the list.

Do you have any handy tomato tips to add?


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