How to ripen green tomatoes: 4 easy steps to make the most of your harvest

Whatever the reason for premature picking, knowing how to ripen green tomatoes will ensure they don't go to waste

green tomatoes on vine
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Learning how to ripen green tomatoes couldn't be simpler, however, the method for doing so isn't exactly common knowledge. It's definitely useful to get the know-how, though, so that you can maximize your crops and enjoy this delicious staple ingredient for longer in the summer kitchen.

If you've been avidly growing tomatoes for years, an influx of green fruit may be a familiar problem. Perhaps you've experienced it at the end of the season, when the remaining fruits on the vines are showing no signs of ripening. Or, perhaps you've struggled to get your tomatoes to ripen at all, due to the temperatures being not quite right. As garden expert Monty Don explains on his website (opens in new tab), tomatoes ripen best when the temperature is between 79 to 86ºF (26 to 30ºC). 

Alternatively, maybe your tomatoes have become infested with pests or disease, and you've picked the fruits prematurely before discarding the plants in the hope that you could find a use for them. Or, frosts could be forecasted, and it makes sense to pick the fruit before the plants get destroyed.

Whatever the reason, the good news is that getting green tomatoes to ripen is totally possible in just a few steps. You'll be adding tasty red fruits to your salads and sandwiches in no time.

green tomatoes in crate

A green tomato harvest can be ripened after picking

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Get the most out of your crop with our tips on how to ripen green tomatoes

Whether you're growing your tomatoes in raised garden beds or in pots, these tips will ensure you can enjoy every last one.

  1. Monty Don says you can pick green tomatoes individually or still on the vine from your kitchen garden. If possible, pick them when they're full-sized, or almost there.
  2. Don't be tempted to wash them before getting them to ripen – this can encourage mold to develop. You should, of course, wash them before eating, though.
  3. Then, all you need to do is put your green tomatoes in a drawer with a banana, and they will ripen and turn red, Monty says. The banana will naturally give off ethylene gas which promotes the ripening of fruit. The drawer will help to trap the gas.
  4. It should take between one to two weeks for the green tomatoes to ripen – but check them regularly and remove any that ripen sooner. Avoid storing your newly-ripened tomatoes in the fridge. They should remain at room temperature – around 65 to 77ºF (18 to 25ºC).

green tomatoes in bowl with banana

All you need for this simple trick is a banana and a drawer, box, or bag

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Instead of a drawer, you can use a paper bag or a cardboard box, still with the addition of a banana. 

It should take roughly the same amount of time, but as above, check frequently and remove any tomatoes that have turned red, as well as any that are showing signs of rot.

What can you use instead of a banana to ripen green tomatoes?

Apples also give off ethylene gas. So, if you don't have any bananas, try adding an apple to your drawer, bag, or box alongside the green tomatoes instead.

Apples, as well as bananas, can also speed up the ripening of avocados when placed together. This can be useful to know whether you've learned how to grow avocados and are picking them fresh from the garden or are buying them from a store.

green tomatoes

Don't discard your green tomatoes, learn how to ripen them indoors instead

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Holly Crossley
Holly Crossley

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.

With contributions from