Many a gardener has wondered, “How long does it take tomatoes to ripen?” After all, we want to ensure we’re planting and harvesting at the right time and giving our tomato plants their best chance to produce wonderful, mature fruit!
Read on to learn the distinguishing characteristics of a ripe tomato, how long it takes tomatoes to ripen overall, and how to help speed along the process to ensure you get the best crop possible from your tomato plants.
When Do Tomatoes Turn Red?
If you’re asking yourself, “How long does it take tomatoes to ripen?”, you should be aware first of all that there are a few different factors that play into the ripening process!
One of those factors is your growing zone; this refers to where you are geographically and will affect everything from the soil status to the air temperature, all of which plays into the developmental process of your ripening tomatoes.
Another factor is the tomato variety that you are growing. Though there is a typical range of about 6 to 8 weeks for tomato plants to begin ripening and turning red once the flowers have been pollinated, this can be different from variety to variety. Some may take longer, others may be shorter—and some may never turn red at all, which is important to bear in mind if you’re used to tracking the redness of your tomatoes as a gauge by which to tell they’re ripe.
By and large, if you are planting your tomatoes after the last threat of frost had passed (early to mid-May depending on your hardiness zone), you’re likely to begin seeing your tomatoes ripen to be picked sometime in early to mid-July.
Can a Non-Red Tomato Be Ripe?
While many a gardener is used to answering “How long does it take tomatoes to ripen?” with the standard of, “Until they turn red!”, it is very important to note that some tomatoes never turn red as they ripen. Green tomato varieties such as Green Giant Tomatoes will retain that healthy shade while they ripen, simply turning a lighter shade of green, while other tomato varieties such as the Dr Wyche’s Yellow Tomato will take on a bright yellow hue.
Orange Icicle Tomatoes may seem to be on their way to reddening as they ripen, but they will remain a citrusy orange color once they’re ready to eat. There are also tomatoes such as the Wagner Blue Green Tomato that are an eye-catching blackish blue hue when they ripen!
Lots of tomato varieties will turn all different shades as they mature. Redness is not an overall indication of ripening, so when asking “How long does it take tomatoes to ripen?”, don’t fall into the trap of seeing red and assuming they’re ready to go!
How Do I Tell If A Tomato Is Ripe?
Because of factors such as color, variances in ripening times, and so forth, the best way to answer, “How long does it take tomatoes to ripen?” is “Until their texture and shine are right!” A ripened tomato, regardless of its final color, will have a shinier surface hue and will give just slightly to the touch. Because tomatoes ripen from the inside out, when you feel that gentle give on the surface, you will know your tomato is ripe and ready to eat.
How Long Does it Take Tomatoes to Ripen on the Vine?
As mentioned above, there are a few factors to take into consideration when asking “How long does it take tomatoes to ripen?” When on the vine, tomatoes will typically ripen around 90 days after they become established. This of course can depend on a lot of other factors, from the rainfall totals in the area to the soil health. But typically, when left to flourish on the vine, you will find your tomatoes begin to ripen within about a 3 month period.
It is likely some will ripen a bit faster and some a bit slower, so be sure to keep an eye out for the high sheen and gentle give in the flesh to be sure your tomatoes are ready to come off the vine.
How Long Does it Take Tomatoes to Ripen Off the Vine?
Especially when it comes to an overabundant harvest or the need to rescue tomatoes from the vine ahead of their full ripening due to weather issues, pest issues, and the like, it’s not uncommon for folks to wonder, “How long does it take tomatoes to ripen off the vine?”
It’s quite fortunate that tomatoes are one of those fruit varieties that will continue their maturation, albeit at a much slower rate, if taken prematurely off the vine. This can be done by several methods, including placing the tomatoes in a paper bag or box, laying them out on a windowsill, or hanging them upside-down. Typically, this will see the tomatoes ripening to full maturity within a window of about 7 to 14 days; it’s recommended to leave the stem on to help aid this process.
How to Help Your Tomatoes Ripen On the Vine
Another matter that factors into answering the question of “How long does it take tomatoes to ripen?” is the state of your tomato plants. There are a few things you can do that will help speed along the process of ripening by honing the plant’s growth efforts into fewer tomatoes, thus providing more nutrients to a smaller crop which will help it mature more quickly.
Remove New Growth As the Season Progresses
Once you are into the growing season, around the middle to late summertime, you can begin removing any new foliage that your tomato plant puts out. This will ensure the plant spends less energy overall on adding growth and much more on sustaining the bountiful growth it already has.
Pick Off the New Flowers
Again, once your tomato plant is established and has begun producing some little growing tomatoes, you can begin picking off new flowers as they come up. Flowers that spawn in the later season are far less likely to be pollinated and produce any tomatoes, so these are only draining the tomato plant’s energy and can be removed to help focus that energy elsewhere.
Remove Any Suckers
Tomato plant suckers—which are small stems that crop up between the joints of the leaves and the branches themselves—are so called because of the tremendous drain they place on your tomato plant. Keeping an eye out for them and removing them when you notice them will help maintain your plant’s vigor.
Remove Late-Season Tomatoes
Particularly toward the end of the season, you want your tomato plant to focus on its largest and best tomatoes to bring them to maturity before colder weather sets in. In this case, you may have to eliminate smaller tomatoes that are unlikely to grow and ripen by the time the first frost hits.
You can attempt to ripen these indoors, or simply discard them; but removing them from the plant will ultimately help speed up the ripening process for larger, more mature tomatoes, ensuring they have time to come to fruition before cold weather takes the harvest.
Now You Know How Long It Takes for Tomatoes to Ripen!
Feeling confident that you know the answer to “How long does it take tomatoes to ripen?” so you can make the most of your tomato crop? Don’t stop there! Excited for more tomato content? Then visit our tomato page for growing tips, comprehensive guides, and tasty recipes!
- About the Author
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Renee Dugan is a lifelong writer, professional editor, and lover of all things nature, gardening and the big outdoors.
A Midwest girl who’s been in the garden since she could first hold a hand trowel, Renee’s love of growing things has bloomed into a passion for healthy living, holistic lifestyle, and knowing where our food comes from.
Now a mother and maturing gardener herself, Renee is passionate about channeling everything she knows and continues to learn about gardening into lessons for her son and others. Her excitement for sharing this knowledge is only superseded by her excitement about being able to finally grow her own citrus plants in pots.
Renee can be reached at email@example.com