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Why Aren't My Tomatoes Ripening?

Steve Reiners, Co-Team Leader, Cornell University
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

August 22, 2012

Why Aren't My Tomatoes Ripening?
With all of the hot weather we have experienced this summer, growers were expecting their tomatoes to ripen very quickly. Unfortunately, just the opposite is happening. Ripening seems very slow, almost like what we see in the autumn when temperatures are much cooler.

So what's happening? It takes six to eight weeks from the time of pollination until tomato fruit reach full maturity. The length of time depends on the variety grown and of course, the weather conditions. The       optimum temperature for ripening tomatoes is 70 to 75F. When temperatures exceed 85 to 90 F, the ripening process slows significantly or even stops. At these temperatures, lycopene and carotene, pigments responsible for giving the fruit their typical orange to red appearance cannot be produced. As a result, the fruit can stay in a mature green phase for quite some time.

Light conditions have very little to do with ripening. Tomatoes do not require light to ripen and in fact, fruit exposed to direct sunlight will heat to levels that inhibit pigment synthesis. Direct sun can also lead to sunscald of fruit. Do not remove leaves in an effort to ripen fruit. Also, soil fertility doesn't play much of a role. We do know that high levels of magnesium and low levels of potassium can lead to conditions like blotchy or uneven ripening or yellow shoulder disorder. But the slowness to ripen is not likely due to soil conditions and adding additional fertilizer will do nothing to quicken ripening.

If you absolutely cannot wait, some growers will remove fruit that are showing the first color changes.  These fruit, in the a mature green or later phase, could be stored at room temperature (70-75F) in the dark. A more enclosed environment would be best as ethylene gas, released from fruit as they ripen, will stimulate other fruit to ripen. If temperatures remain high outdoors, these picked fruit will ripen more quickly, perhaps by as much as five days. As far as flavor, the greener fruit should develop flavor and color similar to what you would get if field ripened. The key is picking them when they are showing the first signs of ripening (no earlier) and keeping them at room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as this will absolutely destroy their flavor.

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Asparagus

Asparagus

Beets

Beets

Broccoli

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage

Cabbage

Carrots

Carrots

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Dry Beans

Dry Beans

Eggplant

Eggplant

Ethnic Vegetables

Ethnic Vegetables

Garlic

Garlic

Horseradish

Horseradish

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Leeks

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Melons

Melons

Onions

Onions

Parsnips

Parsnips

Peas

Peas

Peppers

Peppers

Potatoes

Potatoes

Pumpkins / Gourds

Pumpkins / Gourds

Radishes

Radishes

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rutabaga

Rutabaga

Snap Beans

Snap Beans

Squash - Summer

Squash - Summer

Squash- Winter

Squash- Winter

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Turnips

Turnips

more crops

Upcoming Events

Chautauqua Winter Vegetable Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

February 10, 2023
Clymer, NY

Meeting will feature growers from Ohio sharing their production know-how and thoughts on food safety. Other topics include weed control, pesticide safety, and the impact of poor crop nutrition. 0.75 DEC credits in 1a, 23 plus 0.5 in CORE, which is good for all categories. Trade show booths available. 

Meeting cost is $20/person, includes snacks and educational materials. Registration required by 4 pm on Friday, February 3. 

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Orleans Regional Vegetable Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

February 15, 2023
Albion, NY

Offering presentations in pesticide safety, tips for managing diseases in vegetable crops, how to attract beneficial insects to your field, herbicide options for cole crops, and strawberry disease information. Meeting cost is $10 per person, payable at the door via cash or check. Pre-registration requested by 5:00 pm on Monday, February 13.

DEC credits available: 2.25 in 1a and 10; 2.0 in 23; 1.5 in 22; and 0.5 in CORE (used in all categories)!!

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NYS Processing Vegetable Industry Roundtable Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

March 15, 2023 : Morning Session: Snap Beans, Sweet Corn, and Peas
Batavia, NY

Processing vegetable industry members who grow, manage, or support snap bean, sweet corn, or pea production for Nortera and/or Seneca Foods, should attend this session of the roundtable meeting. You will:

  • Network at this in-person meeting.
  • Learn the results of industry-funded research.
  • Have a voice in Cornell research and extension.
  • Earn 2.0 DEC credits in categories 1a, 10, 23 and CCA recertification credits.

This FREE event is followed by lunch! Pre-registration requested.


March 15, 2023 : Lunch Break and Networking

Lunch is FREE to anyone attending either the Morning Session or the Afternoon Session of the NYS Processing Vegetable Industry Roundtable Meeting. Registration is required.


Event Offers DEC Credits

March 15, 2023 : Afternoon Session: Beets and Carrots
Batavia, NY

Processing vegetable industry members who grow, manage, or support beet or carrot production for Nortera, Seneca Foods and/or Love Beets, should attend this session of the roundtable meeting. You will:

  • Network at this in-person meeting.
  • Learn the results of industry-funded research.
  • Have a voice in Cornell research and extension.
  • Earn 2.0 DEC credits in categories 1a, 10, 23 and CCA recertification credits.

Lunch is provided before this session. It's FREE! Pre-registration requested. 

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Announcements

2022 Year in Review Released

Our 2022 Year in Review report highlights some of our 2022 projects and community outreach efforts impacting commercial vegetable, greenhouse, potato, and dry bean producers in 14 counties of western and central New York, and beyond.
  • Education and Technical Assistance Provided to Providence Farm Collective
  • Engineering Improvements in Biodegradable Mulch
  • Perseverance Leads to Solution for Perennial Sowthistle in Onion
  • Potato Programming Spans Farms of All Sizes
  • Improving Winter High Tunnel Soil Nitrogen Management
  • Laser Scarecrows Tested on Local Farms
  • New York Vegetable Industry Support
Cornell Cooperative Extension is Your Trusted Source for Research-Based Knowledge!

Small-Scale Fresh Mkt Potato Variety Trial Results

This year, the Cornell Vegetable Program planted a potato variety trial focused on commercially available fresh market potato varieties, with the small-scale potato grower in mind. This trial allowed us to test different varieties of potatoes that might be of interest to consumers at farm markets and see how well they perform in a western NY climate. 

We've posted a brief overview of our results on the Potato page.

If you would like the full report (PDF with photos and yield data) emailed to you, email Margie Lund.

New Ag Climate Factsheet Released

The intersection of agricultural production and greenhouse gases is gathering increasing attention. This is an opportune time to consider how vegetable production interacts with carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions, and how using cover crops may alter this picture.

The factsheet, Greenhouse Gases and Soil Organic Carbon in Vegetable Production and the Role of Cover Crops, written by Zach Spangler, Ag Climate Resiliency Specialist with CCE Harvest NY, and Elizabeth Buck, Fresh Market Vegetable Specialist, CCE Cornell Vegetable Program, discusses:
  • Sequestration of atmospheric carbon in agricultural soils as soil organic carbon (SOC). Is vegetable production impacting SOC?
  • Net greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4) from the soil.
  • Impact of cover crops on soil organic carbon, nitrous oxide emissions, and other GHG emissions.


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