Ripening late-harvest tomatoes indoors

fresh garden tomato salad with basil

Wouldn’t it be nice to eat salads made with your own fresh garden tomatoes even in the middle of winter? Or to cook with your own, pesticide-free, home-grown Roma tomatoes?

Well you can – by ripening them indoors!

fresh home-grown Roma tomatoes ripened indoors for winter

It is mid-January here in Canada – the middle of winter. Yet I am still eating fresh tomatoes out of my garden!

These are my own home-grown tomatoes, sliced and fried up for my breakfast this very morning.

And above is a salad I made with my garden tomatoes a month ago (yes, I moved some of my potted basil plants indoors – they won’t last the whole winter, but you can get a couple more months out of the season).

Unless you live in the tropics, by the time the cooler autumn weather has set in you will probably still have lots of green tomatoes still on the vines.

What you need to know to ripen garden tomatoes indoors:

ripening Roma tomatoes indoors over winter

To keep tomatoes for ripening indoors, at the end of the season pick your remaining green tomatoes – but treat them very gently. Handle them as delicately as eggs, one at a time, placing them gently into a basket.

They may take weeks or even months to ripen. So any bruises at this stage will progress into rot long before the tomato ripens.

Gentle handling is probably THE biggest key to success here.

Then lay the tomatoes out on a tray and put it – no, not in the sun! – but in a place where you can keep a close eye on them. You can speed up ripening by keeping them closer together and in a warm place – or you can slow down ripening by spreading them farther apart and keeping them in a cooler place.

I mostly keep my tomatoes on trays downstairs on the basement floor, to slow ripening, then from time to time gently a few upstairs to accelerate ripening. That way I can stagger the ripening so I have tomatoes available just at the pace that I’ll need them.

ripening tomatoes indoors on a tray

It’s super important to check them very frequently – ideally every day.

Any tomatoes that are starting to rot should either be eaten immediately (if there is only a small area of rot) or else removed and chucked into your compost.

If you leave rotten or mould tomatoes in, it will spread very quickly and ruin your whole batch.

Some may become a bit wrinkly while not rotting – they are fine to eat.

Here’s a little gif showing my tomatoes ripening slowly, in the cool, downstairs on the basement floor, as I use them bit by bit over a period of a few weeks:

Home-grown tomatoes always taste so much better than anything you can buy in the stores. If you harvest carefully and ripen indoors, you can extend your fresh tomatoes season by three or even four months! Some pretty good flavour for a very small amount of work.

I don’t have greenhouses or an “acreage” – but I still am able to provide a lot of food for my household from my backyard gardens here in town. If you would like to learn how you can become self-sufficient and grow your own food, too, then sign up for the Food Garden Club! It’s free – and I promise I will never spam you or share your private contact info.

Published by Jacqueline Windh

I'm a writer, photographer, and radio broadcaster who is concerned about our planet and how we live our lives - hoping my work helps people to find new ways of thinking about issues such as personal health, wilderness, the environment, food security, thinking about the future. These things are all connected, you know...

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