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Ripening tomatoes, green peppers indoors

With a few frosty nights behind us, many gardeners may have collected the last of their tomato and pepper harvest. The cooler than normal summer delayed development of many warm-season crops, such as tomato and pepper, but the not fully ripe fruits need not go to waste. With proper short-term storage, they will ripen and extend the joys of gardening a bit longer.

Following are post harvest 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.


• 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 keep in a refrigerator for about 1 week but will lose their flavor. Green peppers keep for 2 weeks. Green, mature tomatoes and peppers stored at 65-70 degrees, will ripen in about 2 weeks. Cooler temperatures slow the ripening process. At 55 degrees, they will ripen in 3-4 weeks. Storage temperatures below 50 degrees will slow ripening, but results in inferior quality.

If tomatoes and green peppers are stored where the humidity is too high, the fruit molds and rots. If humidity is too low, the fruit shrivel and dries out. Since 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.

For more information on this, or other topics, contact me at the Polk County office in McIntosh or at the Clearwater County office on Wednesdays. Our toll free number is 800-450-2465. If email is your thing, contact me at Source: University of Minnesota Horticulture.