A friend of mine came over for lunch recently, and was shocked when I mentioned the tomatoes we were enjoying had come from my garden.
“But how?” she wondered. “Our first freeze was over a month ago! How can you possibly still have fresh, ripe tomatoes this time of year?”
Well, the answer is that we pulled all our tomato fruits *before* the first freeze and have slowly been ripening them on our countertop. Of the 100 or so tomatoes we pulled back in November, we’ve had probably 8-10 ripen up each week, allowing us to enjoy tasty, fresh tomatoes well into the colder months.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about how to go about indoor-ripening your tomato harvest, so let me explain the process. All you need is a space to let the tomatoes sit in a room-temperature, dry place. You’ll want to put an absorbent material down to lay the tomatoes on, in a single layer. (A shallow cardboard box is ideal for this.)
Then, go to the grocery store and get a single not-quite-fully-ripe tomato of any variety. Place it in the middle of the box with your garden tomatoes. The single ripening tomato from the store will release a chemical called ethylene as it continues to ripen that will trigger ripening in the rest of the tomatoes as well. Then, once some of your garden tomatoes start to ripen, they’ll trigger a chain reaction and soon your whole box will start to turn red and ripe.
That’s really it. No special lights needed. No chemical ripeners. Just a carboard box and a single grocery store tomato. And you’ll be enjoying home grown tomatoes well into January.