How to encourage tomatoes to ripen on the plant
We’ve had a great season for growing tomatoes in he UK. I grew 106 plants, many of them cherry varieties with two or three main stems, and the number of tomatoes picked has been huge.
As temperatures turn cooler and daylight hours grow shorter, it’s time to introduce a few tactics to make sure that the green tomatoes don’t stay green for too long!
Tomatoes on the plant – stress encourages ripening
It’s time to tell your plants that the season is coming to an end and they had better “get a move on”. Ways to do this include reducing their work load and creating a little stress that will encourage them to fulfil their destiny, which is, to make ripe tomatoes that make seeds to grow tomatoes next season!
A great way to reduce the work load and stress plants slightly at the same time, is to give the leaf branches a trim. This is a good method if you have a number of trusses that are still to ripen.
Leaf trimming helps ripen fruit and increases aeration.
Removing Leaf Branches
This is done gradually throughout the season, but if you remove leaf branches up to just below the truss that is still to ripen (still green), it will encourage ripening.
Fruit that are under-size probably won’t mature in time, so it’s best to remove them to help the tomatoes that are full size to ripen.
All flowers should also be removed of course! Generally, reducing the amount of tomatoes on each truss will improve fruit quality, growth and size – especially on medium and beefsteak tomatoes.
Reduce Water and Nitrogen
Cutting back on water and watering frequency can also stress plants slightly and encourage ripening – just make sure that the soil doesn’t get too dry or the next time you water, skins may split. It’s best to make sure that all ripe tomatoes are already picked.
Any feed with excess nitrogen will slow the ripening process. A “finishing feed” is sometimes used to complete the fruiting process containing only phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and sulfur – no nitrogen.
Heavier stress tactics!
Push a trowel into the soil at the edge of a pot or container and cut through some of the roots. This will send the plant into a state of shock and encourages ripening.
A careful pull upwards at the bottom of the stem will disturb the roots below and send a signal to the plant that its days are numbered and to ripen its fruit!
Pick fruit that are turning colour – they will still ripen and taste great. Tomatoes ripen from inside out so when you see the skin turning colour, the inside is already well on the way to being ripe.
Cover outside plants with fleece
As temperatures drop and autumn approaches, cover outside plants with garden fleece to help keep them slightly above air temperature and keep fruit ripening.
By the way, tomatoes that are picked before reaching full size, won’t normally ripen after picking. But they are still good for chutney or fried green tomatoes!
If all else fails, pick them and put them in a large bowl with a ripe banana. The ethylene given off by the banana encourages ripening – ethylene is a ripening hormone.
Chutney and other tomato recipes
A very kind neighbour and fellow tomato grower gave me a jar of Damson and Tomato Chilli – nothing like a spicy chutney to jazz-up a salad or two in these last weeks of summer!
Fried slices of green tomatoes, chutney, jams and even tomato wine are some of the ways we can use tomatoes at the end of the season.
If you have a tried and trusted recipe, please add it below and I put it on a new recipe page.