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Q&A

What is the best way to ripen green cherry tomatoes?

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About three weeks ago we had our first night of temperatures below freezing, so I picked the remaining viable cherry tomatoes on my plant. The ones I picked were close to full-size but green. (I was told that the tiny ones wouldn't develop, so I skipped a few of those.)

This was my first time growing tomatoes. The wisdom of the Internet told me to put the green tomatoes in a brown paper bag along with a sacrificial apple to ripen the tomatoes. I left the bag on the kitchen counter, several feet away from heat sources. After a week, the tomatoes were still mostly green and the apple was drying up. I replaced the apple and, as an experiment, moved some of the tomatoes to the windowsill, where they started to ripen.

When the second sacrificial apple was spent and the tomatoes in the bag were still mostly green, I moved them to a transparent cup on the windowsill. They've been off the plant for three weeks now and I don't know how any of this will affect the taste, but they're starting to turn orange. The earlier ones (the ones I moved to the windowsill after that first week) turned red and tasted ok -- not as good as fresh-picked, but still edible. Assuming these ones progress, I'll try to eat them too, unless there's a food-safety reason not to.

All this has me wondering, though: did I do something wrong with the oft-recommended brown-paper-bag method? Is there some reason not to ripen them on the windowsill like this?

photo: cherry tomatoes in various stages of ripening, in a clear plastic cup

Photo taken next day, outside of cup:

spread on counter

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The paper bag method most likely didn't work because the environment wasn't warm enough. As you can read here, the paper bag method should be used in moderately warm environment. Generally speaking, room temperature is needed for ripen any kind of fruit. Low temperatures inactivate necessary enzymes and proteins. (Low temperatures lead to atoms and molecules moving less and less so that everything that is based on the said atoms and molecules also doesn't work, in that case proteins.) To delve deeper in the topic of ripening fruits, I can recommend this read: https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2018.00016. It's the science behind ripening of any fruit and is very accessible.

Your tomatoes most likely suffer from blotchy ripening as the conditions surrounding them have changed repeatedly and strongly (varying temperature and luminosity). Blotchy ripening may have other reasons as well. Symptoms of blotchy ripening are irregular ripening and differently coloured spots all around the tomato which can be observed on several tomatoes in the second picture (the darker spots). Blotchy ripening can't be undone. You can read more about it here: https://ecoculturebs.com/en/2018/03/22/3997/.

Tomatoes which are not ripened shouldn't be eaten because of a possible increased solanine concentration within them. However, this is disputed, science has not clearly agreed on that yet. I would recommend to not eat them. Besides the solanine, it's also pretty safe that they won't taste that good compared to the ones you ate before as the blotchy ripening impairs the whole fruit and therefore its taste.

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