Ripening tomatoes on the vine

Ripening tomatoes

Ripening tomatoes

As with all vegetable growing, the one stage that every gardener awaits with eager anticipation is when the plants start to produce ripe ready to eat produce, this is when you can start to reap the rewards for all of your effort. Waiting for your tomatoes to ripen is no different to any other garden product.

Problem is tomatoes can sometimes be a little tricky and hang on the vine not looking at all like the lovely red tomatoes everyone aspires to.

There are a few good reasons for this, first of all the most obvious, not every tomato variety is red. In rare cases some are actually ripe and ready to eat when they are green. There are also varieties that are yellow, orange or even striped, so make sure you know which varieties you are growing so you know what to expect, seems obvious but not everyone keeps a note of the type of tomato they are growing.

To an extent the type of tomato applies to the second reason some tomatoes can take longer to ripen which is size. Clearly a small cherry type tomato will ripen more quickly than a large beefsteak type of tomato. The period to maturity and ripening can vary across tomato types by as much as 25 to 30 days, mostly size dependent. Making sure you get you plants early enough will ensure you will be ripening tomatoes on the vine and not indoors.

That said, tomatoes of all varieties and types have to reach a mature stage, which is actually when they are still mostly green but maybe showing the beginning of turning red at the blossom end. Until they reach this mature state they will not ripen, even if you take them off the vine and try to induce ripening, indoors for example. If you do try and induce ripening at some point you need to be very sure the tomatoes have reached maturity before removing them from the plant. Of course when they are mature enough to be taken off the vine, they should be so that the plants energy can be directed to the less mature tomatoes so that they will ripen.

What triggers ripening in tomatoes is ethylene gas which acts as a hormone to progress the ripening process. As they ripen they produce carotene and lycopene in the skin giving it the colour red. Tomatoes will normally ripen as long as the temperature is between 55F to 85F, temperatures lower than this will produce bland, tasteless tomatoes and any higher than 85F and the production of carotene and lycopene will stall abruptly. Bananas give out a lot of ethylene when they are ripening so if you have your tomatoes in a greenhouse, you could hang a bunch of bananas in among them to trigger the tomatoes ripening process. It does work.

You can visit how to ripen tomatoes for detailed information on the problems that prevent tomatoes from ripening and some suggestions for resolving those problems.