Hanging Tomato Plants to Ripen Indoors


Since moving to a house with a basement three years ago, I have been experimenting with hanging whole tomato vines before the frost to ripen indoors. I’ve tried this technique in varying conditions: in a cold, dark basement; in the darker corners of an unheated porch; right up in the windows of the same south-facing unheated porch. I’ve tried it with whole plants: vine, leaves, roots and all, and I’ve tried hanging clusters only. I’ve also tried it with a range of varieties: from those that are considered long-keepers, to large beefsteak types, and tiny currants and cherries. All possible variations that I can think of have been covered.

These tomato vines have been hanging in my front door for about a month. Strange decor to be sure, but I needed to take advantage of the hook!

I haven’t yet hit on what works and why, but I will say that some just blacken and rot on the vine, while others do ripen well. How far along the tomatoes have come before they are brought in does play a role, but sometimes even those that look like they should ripen easily do not. Dryness is important in preventing rot. Temperature also seems to matter. Colder conditions allow some varieties to keep longer, but I also find that it can prevent ripening from occurring, and again, lead to eventual rot.

So far this year the clear winner is a prolific multiflora cherry called ‘Mirabelle Multiflora.’ I have grown this varieties three times now, but this was my first year ripening indoors in this way. It’s a great candidate because I have found each season that once it gets started, it keeps producing loads of fruit right up to the very end of the season. I have enough experience with this variety to write a more in-depth Tomatoes Worth Growing article on it. Highly recommended!


In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you on the varieties that you have had luck ripening in this manner as well as any insight you have into what makes this method work best.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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7 thoughts on “Hanging Tomato Plants to Ripen Indoors

  1. I’ve never grown tomatoes but I’m enjoying reading about your experience — your tomatoes are lovely and I had no idea you could ripen them this way. They look delish!

  2. I have been wanting to try this. It’s too late for me this season, as we’ve been through two hard freezes, but I’ll be experimenting next year! Looks like I have a new variety of cherry tomato to try as well. I have a ‘tomato worth growing’ on my list, too: Amish Paste. I was astounded by how many tomatoes I got from this variety. They just kept going and going, right up until the freeze. I picked as many green as I could toward the end and let them ripen on the counter to make tomato glut sauce. Thanks for sharing your experience, I’m encouraged to try vine-ripening next year!

  3. I never hung vines, but I did used to bring tomatoes indoors and line them up on windowsills. When it got too cold for them to ripen outdoors in fall, they would still ripen on the windowsill. I did it with both large varieties and cherry tomatoes and they most all did fine.

  4. I’m so glad you wrote about this, because I’ve always wondered if I could cut the whole branch and ripen them that way. I’ll have to experiment next year!

    I always pick our tomato plants clean before the first frost and ripen the green ones in shallow, ventilated produce boxes (I get these from our natural grocers). About once a week I have to rearrange them to use up the ones that are getting soft and throw away the ones that blackened. This year we used this method on Wapsipinicon Peach, Matt’s Wild Cherry, Brandywines, Italian Paste, and Japanese Trifele Black. They all “worked”, but the Italian Paste and Japanese Trifele Black have given the best results (most flavor, least rotting). Still have about a dozen of them on the shelf waiting for a batch of chili.

  5. Interesting! I must try (well, there’s always next year). I have ripened tomatoes right on the counter – strictly by accident! – thinking I would make some green tomato something or another and to my surprise – red tomatoes! I love cherry tomatoes and will try this next year! I have an old cellar with stone foundation that works for this sort of thing with a little fan …

  6. I felt my hanging was unsuccessful. It was a lot of work to pull everything up including some of the roots, but I also hung some that were just a bit of the plant with clusters of smaller tomatoes (which I might try again). There were some that broke off before hanging and they seemed to ripen at the same rate as the ones on the vine. Perhaps its just the types I had. They were mostly Mortgage Lifter, Yellow Taxi, Yellow Pear, and an unidentified golf ball-sized red (that might be Early Treat). I think the smaller the tomato the better the result. I might clip some again next year but I won’t be digging them all up again.

  7. I did this with ildi tomatoes and had great results. I loved having them just hanging in the pantry waiting to be snacks!

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