Tips for using Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

The leaves are starting to turn colors, the farmers are in the field and the nights are becoming cool! These are all signs that fall is here and the end of gardening is definitely in sight! Many home gardeners still have green tomatoes on the vine and they are calling us wondering what they can do to preserve them. Here are some steps for selecting, picking and storing 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.


  •  Store tomatoes in boxes, 1 to 2 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.

Green, mature tomatoes stored at 65-70° F, will ripen in about 2 weeks.  Cooler temperatures slow the ripening process.  At 55° F tomatoes will slowly ripen, but may of inferior quality. Likewise if tomatoes are stored where the humidity is too high then the fruit can mold and rot.  If humidity is too low, the fruit may shrivel and dry out.  Since homes vary in humidity levels, you will need to learn by trial and error what works best for you.   Unfortunately tomatoes 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.

If you would prefer to use the tomatoes when they are green and are looking for some recipes there are several to choose from including fried green tomatoes, green tomato pie, green tomato bread and green tomato relish. If you are interested in these recipes use this link to download the publication A Harvest of Green Tomatoes from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

Whether you choose to ripen them or use them green you will be enjoying the fruits of your labor and the wonderful dishes that you can make from growing things in your garden.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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10 thoughts on “Tips for using Green Tomatoes

  1. Pickling Green Tomatoes =1st time last year. Went over amazing. Handed some out to my Dentist and staff and they loved them. They had never tasted them either. I used a bread n butter brine. Worked wonderful.

    On verge of doing the same this year. Surprise, Suprise. People at amazed at taste and flavor. I did add a little -Zing- with Jalapeno to add little -Gusto-spicy taste.

  2. Pickling Green Tomatoes =1st time last year. Went over amazing. Handed some out to my Dentist and staff and they loved them. They had never tasted them either. I used a bread n butter brine. Worked wonderful.

    On verge of doing the same this year. Surprise, Suprise. People are amazed at taste and flavor. I did add a little -Zing- with Jalapeno a little –spicy taste.

  3. Hello Ms Steven.
    Good day, I want to store tomatoes for long term in cold storage its possible? How can I do this?
    In our country we near to the harvest time however the price of each KG very low, i decided to keep it in cold storage for some time.
    Please give to me any tips to keep tomatoes for a time.
    Thank you!

  4. Hi Khalil, storing fresh tomatoes is a bit tricky but can be done. The best kinds of tomatoes to store are green tomatoes, or a tomato that’s specifically bred for long-term storage. Many grocery store tomato varieties are bred, in part, for their storage ability. Some backyard tomato varieties, such as Red October and Garden Peach share that trait. With other varieties one needs to expect a little less success. Harvest green or half-colored tomatoes. Do not wash them but rather dust them to remove any dirt. Wrap them individually in paper and place them in a cardboard box like an apple box. Tomatoes emit ethylene gas which triggers ripening. The paper protects the tomato from damage while retaining some of the ethylene to assist with ripening. Store them in a dark, cool location (about 55F). Be sure to check them weekly for signs of ripening as well as mold or spoilage.

  5. I sliced my green tomatoes and realized I had the wrong size seals, and storrs are out. How long can I keep these green tomatoes in the fridge before I get them canned

  6. Nadine, so sorry you have found yourself in this situation. The tomatoes can be kept for 2-3 days in the fridge but know that the slices have now been exposed to air; air activates the enzymes in the tomatoes. As a result, you may notice more seperation in the jars when you do get them canned.

  7. How can I store green tomatoes and prevent them from ripening. I love green tomato bread and want to make it through the winter.

  8. Hi Sue, tomatoes will eventually ripen as that is what nature intended them to do; the ethylene gas they give off makes this happen. The tips provided in the blog cover the best known conditions to slow ripening–cool temperatures and removing those that ripen or show signs of ripening.

  9. I have lots of tomatoes still green on the vine that are slow to ripen. I have to leave town for a couple of weeks unexpectedly in a few days. I plan to freeze the ripe ones before I leave. Can I pick the green ones and wrap them in paper like you suggested and hopefully can them when I get back? Does it matter what kind of paper? I was thinking printer paper? I won’t be able to check them weekly. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

  10. Hi Janet,
    Eliminate green fruit, as research shows it’s more likely to spoil than ripen and never develops the flavor gardeners want anyway. Mature green fruit will develop good flavor. Mature green tomatoes are well sized and have turned light green to white.

    Sort and store fruit by colors that will ripen at similar speeds. Group fruit that are mature green, pink, light red and fully red but not soft.

    Store ripening tomatoes at 55 to 70 degrees F. Refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees are too cold to ripen mature green tomatoes and are colder than desired for ripe ones. Ripening enzymes are destroyed by cold temperatures whether in the garden or in a refrigerator.

    Ripen tomatoes in well-ventilated, open cardboard boxes at room temperature checking them every few days to eliminate those that may have spoiled. Mature green tomatoes will ripen in 14 days at 70 degrees F.
    Leave a little space between tomatoes to improve circulation and speed up the ripening process. If dealing with an especially large harvest of green tomatoes, wrap each tomato in paper or place a few sheets of newspaper between layers to limit contact. Wrapping also helps to trap the ethylene gas that encourages ripening.

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