How to Ripen Green Tomatoes (Fast!)

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes (Fast!)

So, the purpose of this post is not to imply that I don't like green tomatoes - in fact, I LOVE green tomatoes.  I love them fried, grilled, pickled, roasted, and other ways I haven't thought of yet.

The thing is, I don't want to have to enjoy only green tomatoes.   But, it was starting to look that way.  Why?  Because the micro-second one of my lovely garden tomatoes starts to ripen, the chipmunk crew that maraudes  my neighborhood makes off with them.  This is despite a number of countermeasures I have put in place and a voracious red fox that has dispatched all of the rabbits but seemingly none of the chipmunks.  I started promptly picking my tomatoes early and placing them on my windowsill.  No ripening.  I even placed them on the dashboard of my car on hot sunny days.  Nothing!  

I gave up on the summer's first harvest and made fried green tomatoes.

I then started asking around about the best way to ripen tomatoes if you pick them totally green and was told OF COURSE the window sill doesn't work (of course?).  Armed with new information, I tried a number of suggested methods.  I tried the putting them in the back of the cupboard, in an empty utensil drawer, and in a paper bag.  All of these methods worked pretty well, though not very consistently and not very quickly.

Then a co-worker told me that he always ripens his green tomatoes (he has a deer problem) in a cardboard box with a ripe banana.  I tried it and poof!  My firm green tomatoes were nice and ripe in 2 days.

Why do ripe bananas speed up the ripening process?  Well, aside from temperature, the key to ripen any fruit is a gas called ethylene, which is released by the ripening fruit.  And the riper the fruit, the more ethylene is released.  In fact, commercial farms use ethylene to ripen their tomatoes, which are almost always picked quite green.  A ripe banana emits a lot of ethylene, which, when placed next to tomatoes in a small space, ripens them faster.

So, the next time you find yourself with green tomatoes and you have a day or two, grab a cardboard box (like a shoe box), poke a few holes in the top, line the bottom with wax paper, parchment, or beeswax food wraps (my favorite), and drop in a ripe banana.  Close up the box and put it somewhere you won't forget it for two days.  You should get nice, ripe tomatoes in 2-4 days! And no, the tomatoes will not taste like bananas.

Got any other brilliant tomato-ripening ideas?  Let me know!