Summer is the time to grow tomatoes, after which you can simply preserve and store them as you like. However, it’s not always that you get to harvest fully ripe tomatoes before fall comes and you’re left with halfway-ripened tomatoes just days before the first frost.
Once the frost hits, you won’t be able to harvest anything since tomatoes stop developing in cold weather. If you want them to survive the first freeze, a row cover or sheets can help but it won’t be much help without heat and sunlight afterwards. The best chance you have at getting red tomatoes is to pick your half-ripened tomatoes now and get the job done indoors. If you can see some patches of red on them, it’s likely that they’ve started ripening and all you need to do is finish the job.
This gas is produced and used commercially all around the world to ripen produce such as fruits because there are usually picked while green so that they can be shipped. It may sound weird since you’ve been trying to avoid artificial additions to your crops so why even mention ethylene? Well it is also a naturally produced gas that’s made by fruits like apples and bananas while ripening. Place the half-ripe tomatoes with a ripe apple or banana and watch them ripen up. You’ll need to place them in an enclosed space to fully ripen. Use any one of the following methods:
Use a Paper Bag
Based on how big of a bag you have, you can place about 5 to 10 tomatoes in it along with a banana or apple that’s ripening. Leave the paper bag in a warm place and remember to check on the banana or apple for signs of spoilage.
Use a Plastic Bag or Big Glass Jar
Both of these work well in place of a paper bag, enclosing the space and concentrating the ethylene gasses. Place about 2 green tomatoes per bag/jar along with a ripening apple or banana. But keep in mind that these containers can trap moisture very well too, so you’ll need to make holes in the bag or the lid of the jar (or open them often to let moisture escape) to prevent spoilage.
Trap Them In Their Own Gases
No apples or bananas? No problem. Tomatoes put off a small amount of ethylene gasses on their own, but it’s tricky to ripen them before the fruit begins to rot. Enter newspaper, it’ll speed things up. Place newspaper along the bottom of a cardboard box and put your tomatoes on top. Make sure to keep space in between each tomato and place them in a single layer. Add another layer of newspaper over the top and close the box. Store in a warm place and check often.
Hang Them Up
This is in case a frost is quickly on its way and you don’t have the time to individually pick each one. You can remove the entire plant and then hang it upside down in a cellar or garage where temperatures will be a little warmer. Even though you’ll be removing the entire plant, this method can give you more flavorsome tomatoes since they remain on the vine longer.
If you’re planning on using any of my above-mentioned tips for ripening your tomatoes, remember that it’s always better if the tomatoes have a little bit of redness to them, or are halfway-ripened. Good luck with the upcoming frost!