Life

Gardening: Five measures you can take to help green tomatoes ripen in autumn

As the weather cools, the ripening process slows down

AS THE weather turns cooler, many fruits, including outdoor tomatoes, become slower to ripen and you may end up more green than red fruits. However, there are ways to help your tomatoes ripen.

While there's still sunshine and temperatures don't fall below 10C, leave them on the plant – they are likely to do better on the vine than off it. These other steps can help too:

1. Remove excess leaves: Tomatoes need as much sunlight as possible, so remove leaves that are shading them from the sun.

2. Stop them: Pinch off any remaining flowers and tiny fruits so that the plant energy is focused on the larger ones. Ease off on watering, which will encourage remaining fruits to ripen.

3. Bring them in: Once the cooler weather has set in, cut off whole trusses of the remaining fruits still attached to the connecting stem – you'll need to attempt to ripen them indoors. Whatever you do, bring them in before the first frosts. If you notice late blight (black marking up the stems) taking hold, remove stems which remain unaffected because as long as the blight doesn't reach the fruit, you should be able to salvage the crop. Wash in luke warm water before letting them dry naturally.

4. Give them a helping hand: Tomatoes that are starting to ripen should complete ripening if left at room temperature for up to two weeks if you store them in newspaper, in a cardboard box, in a dark place between 13C and 21C. The warmer it is, the faster they will ripen, but make sure it's a dry, dark environment and check them over every couple of days. If you have small numbers of tomatoes, put them in a paper bag or a wooden drawer with a banana, which releases ethylene, an odourless gas that will speed up the ripening process. If you have a lot of tomatoes to ripen, put a couple of apples – which also release ethylene – into the box.

5. Use up the green ones: You can still use green tomatoes that haven't ripened. Try making green tomato chutney, salsa verde or add them to curries. Whatever you do, don't put them in the fridge. They won't ripen and they'll lose their flavour.

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