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Often grocery stores buy gas ripened tomatoes. The tomatoes are picked green for easy transport and are exposed to ethylene gas to ripen them. While they don't taste as great as vine ripened, they do last longer. Last summer my tomatoes had a late start and didn't ripen on the vine before the frost. So I picked them all and put them in boxes in the basement, and used them as they ripened up.
When we went on a field trip to a grocery store a while back, the grocer explained to the kids that he keeps the fruits and veggies in separate walk-in coolers, so that they don't ripen too quickly. This led us to another great science experiment we found on the Supercharged Science website. We've had large green tomatoes on the vine for a couple of weeks now... but none have ripened. So here's what we did to illustrate the concept.
3 Green tomatoes
3 paper bags
In the first bag we placed a green tomato. In the second bag we placed a green tomato and a very ripe peach. In the third bag we placed a green tomato and a banana. We checked them daily and didn't see any changes, but finally on the 9th day we began to see a blush of pink on the tomato that was bagged with the peach. By then the peach was moldy. The one with the banana didn't change at all. So Mayda ate the banana, and we were happy with our blushing tomato. :)
The tomato finished ripening up on the counter top, and when it was completely ripe the other tomato was still green. It was like the "ripen" switch had been turned on! We did a taste test with the forced ripe garden tomato and a store bought "vine ripened" tomato... and ours still tasted WAY better. :) The second tomato ripened up exactly 10 days later.
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