Green Tomatoes: How to Ripen…or Eat!
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When it’s time to clean out your garden for the year, you might be left with a lot of green tomatoes. What in the world do you do with green tomatoes? Well, you have a couple different options…
Green Tomatoes: Ripen Them!
If you’re one of those folks who wants their tomatoes deliciously red, but you’re running out of time to get them there—or you’ve just got some stubborn tomatoes, I’ve got a trick for you.
About fifteen years ago, my great uncle let me in on the secret of how to deal with tomatoes that just won’t ripen. Here is is:
1. Pop all those green tomatoes in a paper bag.
2. Close up the bag with a clip and let it sit. Check it every few days. Eventually this will start to happen.
This is our tomatoes a week after putting them in the paper bag.
As it turns out, putting tomatoes in a paper bag helps to concentrate the levels of ethylene gas—which is what helps induce ripening. I’m not sure what other magical properties a paper bag holds, but I’m so happy my old time farmin’ great uncle let me in on the tomato ripening secret.
We’ve also found that putting tomatoes in cardboard boxes (and closing the top) works just as well. Just be sure you don’t stack too many tomatoes on top of each other in the box. Before you know it, you’ll have a box of overripe tomatoes, as well as a big mess!
Green Tomatoes: Eat Them!
As a Minnesota girl, I’d always assumed that eating green tomatoes was a southern thing. I grew up in a family that did not touch tomatoes until they were red.
When I brought this up to all my peeps, they informed me that no, eating green tomatoes is not necessarily a southern thing, and that what I really needed to do was try some fabulous green tomato recipes to get over my ignorance. Then they told me about things like:
Chow Chow Recipe from Attainable Sustainable
Green Tomato Relish from Spiraea Herbs
Fried Green Tomatoes from Southern Living
Fermented Green Tomatoes from Grow Forage Cook Ferment
So. I was brave and tried fried green tomatoes and y’all….the magic! You can go from this…
to this fried green tomato yummy-ness!
Why did you keep this secret from me? I’m not even going to admit to how many platefuls of these made the journey to my very happy belly, but it’s safe to say that I’ll be making them again. And again. And I don’t care if it’s a southern thang or not.
So regardless of how you choose to enjoy green tomatoes—by eating them, or ripening them—I wish you the most delicious of harvests!
Grocery shopping in your garden today? Might I suggest a few other recipes?
Strawberry Celery Salad with Honey Dressing
23 thoughts on “Green Tomatoes: How to Ripen…or Eat!”
What a great idea…..and one that obviously works! I have the same problem with the green tomatoes…gonn'a go find a paper bag & stuff them in there, thanks for the idea!
We just place ours on the window sill in the kitchen. They ripen well, the ones who escape the fried green tomato feast.
MamaTea, put an apple in the bag with them and they will ripen even faster. Apples ( and most fruits )give off ethylene gas which is what plants produce naturally to aid in the aging and ripening process.
We are back up to the low 90s here for a few days, if the tomatoes don't start ripening on the vine again they are going in the bag!! Thanks for the tip!
Nice, MamaTea. I've used the tip with bananas and peaches, but not tomatoes. If I can ever get some to grow that the deer don't eat, I'll try it!
I think you just cleared up a question for me. I had tried that before with mushy results. But I was told to put it in a dark closet. Needless to say, out of sight, out of mind.
Oh if only a green tomato existed. Cold rain has turned mine to rot. Brought a couple in, only to rot in a day. Sigh. Until next year 🙁
I did that but I wish I had remembered the apple thing too-it would have sped things up
Spider–never heard the apple part before! I will have to try that next year when I have tomatoes again! 🙂 Speaking of which, I was by my SIL's house yesterday and spied a bunch of ripe Romas on her vine…hmmmmm…
I've had success with something similar. Wrap each green tomato in newspaper, put all the wrapped tomatoes in a cardboard box and put in a cool, dark spot like under the bed. Check once a week and remove the ripe ones. Putting all of them in a paper bag sure sounds easier though. :o]
I don't want to undo the magic but I think it has something to do with a chemical called ethylene. It's the chemical responsible for ripening (and rotting) and if you trap just enough of it (the bag breathes some but plastic wouldn't breathe at all!) it encourages the fruit to ripen naturally.
Cool natural world at work!
But it could be a theory…..
I've always heard Mama Pea's method, but I've never done that because I KNOW I'm too lazy to unwrap and check the tomatoes every week. This sounds a lot easier. Even I can manage opening a paper bag—LOL!
I had to do the paper bag method too, as ALL of my tomatoes were green. So grateful for this trick, as I now have 7 freezer bags full of tomatoes in the freezer for sauce. FINALLY! Lol.
Another idea is to just use the green tomatoes, if you only have a few. DH made us some green tomato chili and it was fabulous–couldn't tell they were underripe unless you looked at them!
I just pulled a 5 gallon bucket of green tomatoes off the vine today because when they ripen on the vine they get blossom end rot. I thought I’d try this paper bag method and see if they didn’t rot. If they do, the would have anyways so no loss there but definitely a bummer! Anyone have any experience with blossom end rot? I’ve heard it’s from inconsistent watering which I’m definitely guluilty of but I thought I did a pretty good job this year, I’m wondering if it could be something else.
Blossom end rot is often caused by a lack of calcium in the soil. You can head this off completely by saving egg shells, drying them up and crunching a few shell’s worth into each hole when planting the tomato plant in the ground. If already planted, use something like a “Tums” smashed up and watered into the soil. Lastly, rotate your crops i your growing space so all the same nutrients are not sucked from the soil in the same place year after year.
This also works for avocados. Love this time of year. Give me a fresh tomato and the salt shaker and I’m a happy camper!
I wish I had read this a few weeks ago! My mom was stuck with a whole bunch of green tomatoes that she ended up just composting! I will have to remember this for next summer.
I slice them green, batter them with flour and a little cornmeal and then slightly fry them in a LITTLE oil (almost like a parboil only frying) them cool them and lay them out on wax paper or freezer paper them stack them with paper between each stack, separating them into meal size packs.W hen I want fried green tomatoes in winter, I thaw them and then finish frying and browning and serve like fresh from the garden. You can freeze
okra the same way.
My mom always said her dad would wrap each large green tomato in newspaper and they would be ripe in time for Thanksgiving. We also loved green tomato relish.
I did not read all of the replies, so forgive me if someone else already said this.
To ripen green tomatoes, you can also pull up the entire plant and hang UPSIDE DOWN in a garage, shed, or barn (if you have one. They will ripen on the vine over time.
I use my green tomatoes to can up some Salsa Verde! https://www.healthycanning.com/green-tomato-salsa/
Try green tomato relish. It looks like something crawled in the back of the fridge and gave up the ghost. However, it tastes great.