Tomatoes

What makes tomatoes turn red

It can be somewhat frustrating to have a tomato plant full of green tomatoes without any sign that they are turning red. Some people think that a green tomato looks a lot like a pot of water; if you look at it, it looks like nothing is happening. So the question is, “Why do tomatoes turn red?

As frustrating as it is to wait, you’ll be happy to know that some things can speed up or slow down the speed at which a tomato turns red.

What makes tomatoes turn red?

The main determinant of how quickly a tomato turns red is the variety. Small-fruited varieties turn red faster than large-fruited varieties. This means that a cherry tomato will not take as long to turn red as a beefsteak tomato. The variety will determine how long it takes for a tomato to reach the green maturity stage. Tomatoes cannot turn red, even with modern technology, unless they have reached the green maturity stage.

Another factor that influences the time it takes for a tomato to turn red is the outside temperature. Tomatoes only produce lycopene and carotene, two substances that help tomatoes turn red, between temperatures of 10 and 29°C. If it is less than 50 F.10 C., these tomatoes will stay green. If it is over 85 F.29 C., the process that produces lycopene and carotene stops.

Tomatoes are made red by a chemical called ethylene. Ethylene is odourless, tasteless and invisible to the naked eye. When the tomato reaches the appropriate green maturity stage, it begins to produce ethylene. The ethylene then interacts with the tomato fruit to start the ripening process. Constant winds can drive the ethylene gas away from the fruit and delay the ripening process.

If you find that your tomatoes fall off the vine, either from a blow or frost, before they turn red, you can place them in a paper bag. As long as the green tomatoes have reached the ripening stage, the paper bag captures the ethylene and helps the tomatoes to ripen.

There is not much a gardener can do to speed up the ripening process of the tomatoes that are still on the plant. Mother Nature cannot easily control and plays a major role in how quickly tomatoes turn red.

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