The Paper Bag Trick To Ripen Tomatoes In A Flash

If you're still growing tomatoes in your home garden but are experiencing colder temperatures at night as the seasons change, then you're probably having trouble getting them ripe. Whether you find yourself in that predicament or are stuck with a bunch of green tomatoes through other means, there's a simple way to make them ripen: Use the paper bag trick.

Warmth is the key to ripening your tomatoes rather than sunlight, which can actually be detrimental to their texture. Because tomatoes are fruit, they release ethylene gas, which causes them to ripen by converting starches into sugar and breaking down the cellular structure. By placing tomatoes in a paper bag, you can trap the ethylene gas without also trapping the tomatoes' natural moisture, which can contribute to molding. If you really want to speed things up, throw a piece of ripe fruit in the bag with the unripe tomatoes to hurry things along.

Don't worry, it's in the bag

The time it takes for tomatoes to ripen in a paper bag depends on how unripe they are to begin with. Tomatoes that are especially underripe can take one to two weeks to ripen in a paper bag — the warmth of the environment that the bag is kept in affects this timeline. Storing the bag above your oven or in a dark cupboard near the oven will help keep conditions warmer, thus speeding up the ripening process. But be careful, too much warmth can lead to molding. Be sure to check the tomatoes daily to see how they're coming along and to look for any signs of mold. As the old adage goes: One bad apple (uh, tomato) spoils the bunch, so be sure to chuck any tomatoes that have spots of mold or else risk the whole bag going off. 

If your tomatoes are just a little underripe, you can skip the bag and instead keep them in the fruit basket. Putting them in contact with other fruits will help ripen them without overdoing it, just like the paper bag treatment. If you have tomatoes that are past their prime, you don't need to throw them away as long as they're clear of black spots and white mold. Instead, turn overripe tomatoes into a sauce or a soup.