Why Does It Seem Like My Tomatoes Are Not Ripening?The most common cause of tomatoes taking longer to ripen is high temperatures. If you are experiencing a period of very warm temperatures this will cause the tomato plant to stop focusing on fruit production and go into survival mode. When this happens the plant begins concentrating its energy on developing strong roots; it puts the ripening process on hold for a bit. Thus, it seems like your tomatoes are taking longer to ripen because they are taking longer.
Different Stages of Ripening for TomatoesThere are different stages of a ripening tomato. They start out as a green, immature tomato and then progress to fully ripened. Color is the most common attribute to look for with a ripening tomato, but that's not always a true indicator for tomato varieties that are green, yellow, orange, or other colors when ripe. The feel and smell of a tomato can also help indicate when it's fully ripe. The image below demonstrates the six stages of tomato ripening: image courtesy of the California Tomato Commission
Tips for Forcing Tomatoes to Ripen FasterThere are several things you can do to speed up the ripening process some. The easiest thing to do is wait for temperatures to drop to below 90°F. This will cause the plant to get out of survival mode and back into producing fruit. If it is getting close to the last round of harvestable tomatoes of your plants you can root prune the plants.
Root Pruning TomatoesRoot pruning your plants encourages the plant to stop growing new roots while it is in survival mode. To root prune you simple take a flat shovel and dig a one foot diameter trench, six to eight inches deep, all the way around your tomato plant. The trench will chop off the ends of the roots and force the plant to stop the new growth. With those root ends clipped off the tomato plant goes back into fruit production mode. This should be done only if you expect this to be your last harvest of the season. Not only will root pruning help to ripen the tomatoes, but it will also decrease the life of your plants.
Ripening Tomatoes After HarvestYou don't have to wait until the tomatoes are at Stage six before harvesting them. As a matter of fact, you can harvest them at any time between Stage three and Stage six. Once the tomatoes begin to enter Stage three you can pick them and bring them inside to fully ripen. This is recommended if squirrels, rabbits, or birds are getting your ripened tomatoes before you do. You can sit the tomatoes stem-end up in a windowsill or kitchen countertop to fully ripen. If you want to speed up ripening even more, place the tomatoes in a paper bag with a slice of banana or apple. Tomatoes produce a gas called ethylene when ripening that expedites the ripening process. The fruit slice will give off ethylene gas as it rots, helping to speed up the ripening of the tomatoes. This should help speed up the ripening of the green tomatoes by a couple days.
Green Tomatoes Will Eventually RipenYou may have to display a bit of patience when you encounter hot temperatures and slow ripening green tomatoes. Don't worry, most of the time the tomatoes will eventually ripen. It just might take a little longer than you had hoped.
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