How to ripen green tomatoes (PLUS 2 green tomato recipes)


You may be left with a bumper crop of green tomatoes but pick them anyway.

As temperatures begin to drop, your tomato plants will start to slow down too. Ripening becomes sporadic when temperatures remain around 15˚C, and when the mercury drops below 12˚C, tomatoes won’t ripen at all. You may be left with a bumper crop of green tomatoes but pick them anyway and you can ripen them indoors or cook them as they are.

Tomatoes need warmth, not light, to ripen so there’s no need to put them on a sunny windowsill. While the warmth from the sun does encourage fruit to ripen, you may end up with overly dry fruit and this is especially true for fruit that’s almost completely green.

Instead, place your tomatoes in a paper bag and position the bag in a warm spot. The paper bag acts as a miniature greenhouse, offering warmth and trapping ethylene. Like many fruits, tomatoes emit ethylene gas as they ripen, which accelerates the ripening process. Bananas are prolific ethylene producers, so place one in the bag with your tomatoes to speed up the process.

If you have several tomato plants with unripe fruit on them, uproot the whole plant and hang it upside down in a warm but shaded spot, like a shed.


Green tomatoes are perfect for cooking. Depending on their stage of ripeness, they can be used in various recipes.

Immature green tomatoes: these will be very hard and a deep green, with no hint of yellow. These won’t ripen at all and are best used for marmalade. Green tomato marmalade is delicious – google and you’ll find hundreds of recipes.

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Mature green tomatoes: these are quite firm but the bottom of the fruit has a white or yellow ‘star’. These may ripen under certain conditions – place them in paper bags with bananas, apples and other tomatoes – or they can be stewed and substituted for apples in many recipes, or fried.

Breakers: these have pink bottoms and will ripen at room temperature, or they can be used straight away in uncooked relishes or guacamole.

Recipe: Green Tomato Salsa

This is a great alternative to the traditional Kiwi relish or chutney. It goes really well with a fish steak that is seared in a pan, then finished off in the oven for 10 minutes. I think it will go well with all kinds of fish, but also try it on pork chops or poached chicken. The balsamic vinegar and the addition of a few sun-dried tomatoes really sweeten up what otherwise would be quite a tart salsa.


3 large green tomatoes, diced
1 white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ red capsicum, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp chopped coriander


Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and sweat gently. When soft add the garlic and capsicums. Stir for a minute, then add the green tomatoes. Cook on a low heat until soft. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir in. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until well combined. Take it off the heat and allow to cool slightly before stirring through the coriander. Keep refrigerated.

Recipe: Fried Green Tomatoes

This Southern US dish was made famous by the 1991 movie of the same name, based on the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café.
The best ones to use for a tangy taste are unripe and starting to turn white. You don’t want solid green ones (too sour) or any that are soft and pink (as they fall apart during frying).

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You can use a coating of breadcrumbs or even finely crushed crackers, but cornmeal (polenta) is the traditional coating in the Southern US.


green tomatoes
freshly ground salt and pepper
tabasco sauce
olive oil


Slice the tomatoes quite thickly, then lay them out on a board. Season each slice with salt, black pepper, and a drop or two of tabasco sauce.

Dredge the slices in the fine cornmeal and cook in a hot frying pan in either olive oil or (more traditionally) bacon fat. The tomatoes are done when crispy on
the outside and soft in the middle.

NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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