by Jennifer Poindexter
Do you have gorgeous tomatoes hanging on the vine in your garden? Do you need them to turn from green to red in a hurry? Whether you’re anxious for a fresh tomato or you’re racing the clock because frost is coming, there are some things you can do to speed up the ripening process while the tomatoes remain on the vine.
Some people pick green tomatoes, toss them in a brown paper sack, and let them ripen indoors. However, others think this has a negative impact on the flavor of the tomato. Plus, not everyone has room for tons of tomatoes sitting around their homes. If any of these scenarios apply to you, you’re in the right place. Here are a few ways to ripen your tomatoes without picking them first.
1. Reduce the Amount of Water
Tomatoes love water. When they receive it, the plants want to grow and produce. Yet, if you’re trying to get the fruit to ripen that’s already on the vine, this may not be what you want.
Therefore, if you have fresh tomatoes hanging on your plant, cut back on the amount of water your tomatoes receive to encourage the fruit to ripen faster.
You must experiment with how much water is the right amount for your plant. If it appears droopy or discolored, apply more water.
Try this tip if you’re in a hurry to receive fresh tomatoes from your plant.
2. Protect the Foliage
This tip is more for those who need to ripen the tomatoes left on the plant prior to the first frost setting in.
Towards the end of the season, your plants are weakening as they reach the end of their lifecycle. Therefore, you must be mindful of how you water your plants.
When watering tomatoes, try aiming the water at the soil. Avoid applying as much water as possible to the foliage.
This is helpful when trying to ripen tomatoes left on the plant because if the plant becomes diseased, you might lose the fruit.
By watering adequately, and using the correct method for application, you could help your tomatoes ripen while still on the vine.
3. Remove Some of the Foliage
You’re going to recognize, within this article, that the key to getting tomatoes to ripen on the vine has more to do with redirecting energy within the plant than anything else.
One way to do this is to remove any unnecessary leaves. It’s wise to trim the leaves at the bottom because it does redirect energy to the fruit.
However, these are also the leaves closest to the soil. Therefore, they run the greatest risk of becoming diseased.
By removing these bottom leaves, you’re ripening your fruit and helping the plant with a single action.
4. Cut the Blooms
This next tip is best used only if you’re racing the clock regarding when the first frost is setting in. If your plant has fruit on it but also has blooms, remove the blooms.
By removing them, you’re telling the plant to send its energy to ripen the fruit already on the vine instead of growing more.
Again, if you’re in the middle of the growing season, you may desire for your plant to produce more fruit.
However, if you’d like your plant to finish ripening the fruit its already made, remove anything which would take energy away from such efforts.
5. Ditch Anything That’s Diseased
We’ve discussed disease quite a bit in this article. The fact is, not only do diseased parts of the plant make it look sickly, but they can also be energy suckers.
As we’ve already mentioned, ripening tomatoes on the vine is all about redirecting energy.
Therefore, if you see any portion of your plant which looks diseased, remove it. As a plant tries to remain healthy, it takes energy.
This equates to less energy going towards the tomatoes for ripening. By removing the damaged parts of the tomato plant, it no longer must worry about these trouble spots, and can focus solely on the fruit.
6. Remove the Small Fruit
When you grow tomatoes, you’ll realize that some of the tomatoes produced are robust. While there are other tomatoes which are tiny.
Remove the small fruit. This will allow the tomato plant to put all its energy into the larger fruit. In turn, this allows the plant to ripen the tomatoes while still on the vine.
If tossing the smaller tomatoes makes you feel wasteful, you don’t need to feel this way. Toss the tomatoes into nature and let wildlife enjoy an easy snack.
7. Pick Any Excess Fruit
This tip is great whether you’re growing tomatoes indoors or outdoors. It’s recommended when you grow tomatoes indoors that you only keep a handful of fruit on the plant and remove the rest.
You can do this outdoors as well. If your plant isn’t overloaded with fruit, it can send its energy to the larger tomatoes forming.
Therefore, ripening the fruit on the vine. Again, you may need to discard the unused tomatoes. Toss them back to nature to avoid feeling wasteful.
8. Wiggle the Roots
This tip might make some people nervous. However, if you’re toward the end of the growing season, you should give it a try.
When you know frost is coming, gently tug or twist your tomato plant. This will cause the roots to move around beneath the ground.
It sends the plant into a panic to where it’ll divert energy into the fruit. The plant thinks it’s time is coming to an end, so it wants to produce fully ripe fruit to leave seeds behind.
9. Provide Protection to Your Plants
If the growing season is up and frost has set in, it’s time to protect your crops if you want the fruit to ripen on the vine.
Provide row covers to your crops, to keep the frost off the plants. This will provide your tomato plants with more time to ripen the remaining fruit.
If you’re at this point in the growing season, it would be wise to combine this tip with some of the others previously mentioned to ensure all energy is going towards creating ripe fruit and not producing any new tomatoes.
10. Grow Tomatoes in the Greenhouse
One of the best ways I’ve found to ripen my tomatoes on the vine is to grow them in a greenhouse. This works during the hotter portions of the year or when you’re trying to beat the frost.
The heat from the greenhouse provides adequate growing conditions for the tomato to function at its best.
If you’re having a hard time meeting your tomato plants’ needs, consider placing them in a greenhouse to ensure adequate growing conditions are met, and the plants have the energy to ripen their tomatoes.
11. Provide Support to Your Tomatoes
Did you know staking your tomatoes can make all the difference in how they’re ripened? If you don’t support the plants, the fruit won’t receive airflow or sunlight.
When tomatoes can’t see the sun, they don’t become ripe. Avoid this misstep by providing ample support to your plants.
If you have any tomatoes which are being smothered by the foliage, remove the surrounding leaves. This will ensure every tomato has a chance to see the sun and become ripe while on the plant.
12. Top Your Tomatoes
Our final tip is to top your tomato plants to get them to ripen. Again, this is about directing energy to the tomatoes and not towards growing a larger plant.
If you have a determinate tomato plant, understand that topping it will ensure that it doesn’t produce anymore fruit.
This will direct the energy to ripening the remaining fruit. Only do this if you’re at the end of the growing season.
However, if you have an indeterminate variety of tomato, you can top the tomato plant over and over. Be sure to keep it trimmed because this will continue to direct energy to the tomatoes and not the plant.
You now have twelve tips for ripening tomatoes on the vine. Many people prefer the taste of tomatoes which have been left on the vine to reach a finished state.
Plus, it’s a great way to save space while still receiving ripe tomatoes. Simply leave the tomatoes on the plant until they’re ready. Hopefully, these tips will help you have an abundance of delicious, vine-ripened tomatoes you can enjoy in a variety of ways.
Learn More About Ripening Tomatoes on the Vine
Diane A Edwards says
Thank you for this very useful information for this city girl who is trying to grow tomatoes for the first time.