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What can I do with my green tomatoes?

The autumn is bringing cooler temperatures and so I'm thinking about what I should do with all the green tomatoes still hanging on the vines.

Green tomatoes left over at the end of the season

Will my green tomatoes still ripen?

There are two main things to consider:

  • Is it warm enough? In order to produce the hormones it needs to turn red, the tomato needs temperatures in between 10 and 29 degrees centigrade. We've got a few more weeks of temps above 10 here in Kent (south east England), so hopefully I have a few more red ones coming.

  • Has the tomato reached its full size? Tomatoes will not start to produce the ripening hormones unless it has reached its full size. So, very young tomatoes will probably not have enough time now to finish growing and ripen.

What can I do to encourage ripening?

I can't do anything about the weather, but I can help the plant to direct its energies where I want them, i.e. getting those existing tomatoes through their growing and ripening stages.

Someone cutting a tomato plant with secateurs, a green tomato

Cut off the top so the tomato plant isn't putting energy into growing.

Someone cutting off tomato flowers with secateurs

Cut off any flowers - it's too late for these to get pollinated and grow fruit now.

Someone cutting very small green tomatoes with a secateurs

Cut off any very tiny tomatoes - they won't be able to grow quickly enough to reach the ripening stage before the weather gets too cold

Someone cutting tomato leaves with a secateurs

Cut off extra leaves - the plants needs leaves, but doesn't need to put its energy into growing lots of them.

What can I do with green tomatoes that have fallen off the vine?

Tomatoes are tastiest if they are left to ripen on the vine, but if they fall off while they're green, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Put the green tomatoes in a paper bag. If they have reached their fully grown stage (see first question above) they will release a natural, odorless gas called ethylene (this is one of the hormones I mentioned earlier). By trapping the gas in the bag you will help the tomatoes to go red.

  • Make green tomato chutney! Or maybe something a little different. I'm hoping my friends at Wasted Kitchen will be able to give me some original ideas. I will be challenging the Wasted Kitchen team (our local foodies who specialise in creating beautiful meals out of the food that other people waste). Keep an eye on our social media for their recipe tips coming up later this week.

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1 Comment

Sep 26, 2022

Oh, that is interesting learning about the ripening hormones! How helpful!

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