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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

Managing Soil Nitrogen in Winter High Tunnels

March 5, 2021

To meet the year-round demand for locally produced food, vegetable farmers have embraced protected agriculture to extend their growing season, improve yields, and enhance crop quality. However, a statewide survey found that after several growing seasons, farmers struggle to maintain productivity due to challenges in long term soil health and fertility management. Cornell Cooperative Extension is exploring practices that high tunnel growers can adopt to better manage soil fertility and improve soil health.

Grab your lunch and join us for a virtual conversation on Friday, March 5, 2021 from 12:00pm - 1:30pm to hear our project updates and research results.

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Assess and Prevent Food Safety Risks in Leafy Greens Production

March 18, 2021

This training will provide an overview of possible sources of contamination related to soil amendments, wildlife, water, post-harvest handling, transportation and more. This training will emphasize specific risks that leafy greens growers may experience, identify tangible corrective actions that can be taken, and provide participants the opportunity to work through example scenarios as a group.

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2021 NYS Dry Bean Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

March 19, 2021

Join the us for the annual Dry Bean Meeting! There will be presentations covering the latest research in NY dry beans. Topic areas include market updates, white mold management, Western bean cutworm and soybean cyst nematode management, herbicide resistance management, dry bean variety testing, and incorporating NY dry beans into schools. This meeting is sponsored by Genesee Valley Bean Company, and Bayer CropScience.

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Announcements

Essentials of Farm Food Safety for Farmworkers

Call to Schedule a Tailored Training for Your Farm Workers
This is a training is brought to you by the CCE Cornell Vegetable Program. Workers will learn the importance of farm food safety and the ins and outs of how it works on the farm and field.

This training aims to cover many of the required worker training topics set forth by GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices and FSMA (the Food Safety Modernization Act), or other 3rd party auditing programs. This training series primarily focuses on training farmworkers in the produce industry. Because Food Safety is a company-wide responsibility, we invite all farm employees to participate in this training. Each farm has unique operating practices but the basics of food safety are critical skill set needed for workers to have if a smoothly operating food safety program is going to work on your farm. Topics covered include:
  • Understand the role of worker training in ensuring food safety on your farm
  • Cover all the important points required for training
  • Identify challenges to consider when training workers and discuss solutions
  • Cover required records for training
  • Introduce resources available to managers to assist in training
  • Why is farm food safety important?
  • How does produce become contaminated?
  • What are the signs that you or a coworker are ill?
  • How can you minimize food safety risks on the farm?
  • What should you do if you see a risk you cannot reduce or eliminate?
  • And much more
We can provide a tailored training for your workers through an online program before the season starts or combine workers with another farm to do a larger training. Contact Robert Hadad for more information.

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