What's the best way to ripen and store tomatoes and green peppers indoors?

November 16, 2007 Print Friendly and PDF
Gardeners can pick unripe green peppers and green tomatoes to ripen indoors. Following are postharvest guidelines for your peppers and tomatoes. Selecting and picking: • Pick ripe, nearly ripe, and mature green fruits before frost occurs. Mature green tomatoes are those with a glossy, whitish-green fruit color and mature size. • Select fruits only from strong, healthy vines, and pick only those fruits free of disease, insect, or mechanical damage. • Remove stems to prevent them from puncturing each other. • If dirty, gently wash and allow the fruit to air-dry. Storing: • Store tomatoes and peppers in boxes, one to two layers deep, or in plastic bags with a few holes for air circulation. • If you have a cool, moderately humid room, simply place them on a shelf. • Keep fruit out of direct sunlight. They may be stored in the dark. • As tomatoes ripen, they naturally release ethylene gas, which stimulates ripening. To slow ripening, sort out ripened fruits from green tomatoes each week. To speed up ripening, place green or partially ripe fruits in a bag or box with a ripe tomato. Ripe tomatoes will keep in a refrigerator for about one week but will lose their flavor. Green peppers keep for two weeks. Green, mature tomatoes and peppers stored at 65 to 70 degrees F will ripen in about two weeks. Cooler temperatures slow the ripening process. At 55 degrees F, they will ripen in three to four weeks. Storage temperatures below 50 degrees F will slow ripening but results in inferior quality. If tomatoes and green peppers are stored where the humidity is too high, the fruit will mold and rot. If humidity is too low, the fruit shrivel and dry out. Because homes vary in humidity levels, you will need to learn by trial and error what works best. Tomatoes and green peppers ripened indoors are not as flavorful as vine-ripened fruits. However, compared to store bought, you will be delighted with your own home-ripened tomatoes.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.