How To Pick Tomatoes

There aren’t many things that are as satisfying as picking red, juicy tomatoes off the vines in your home vegetable garden. If you’re ever tried homegrown tomatoes, you’ll know that the unsurpassed flavors aren’t something you’ll find on the racks of grocery stores. As summers reach its peak, gardeners often start becoming impatient, since it means that the tomato harvest is near. 

To enjoy the most from your homegrown tomatoes, it’s important to pick them at just the right time and in just the right way. After all, you’ve spent so much time tending to the plant and helping it grow to maturity. It’s only fair to harvest it right and make the most out of the time and effort you’ve invested. Here’s a guide on how to pick tomatoes the right way for best results. 

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How To Pick Tomatoes

When To Pick Tomatoes

It’s an important question to ask when you want to enjoy the best flavors from your homegrown harvest. Figure out the specific variety you have planted and learn about its mature color. Not all tomatoes are red when ripe. Tomatoes also come in other colors, including pink, yellow, orange, blackish red and green. If you have the seed packet, the mature color will be mentioned on that. If you don’t have the packet, google the name of the variety and you’ll find it’s mature color.

Harvest time for tomatoes usually comes around late summers. Different varieties take different times to grow to maturity. The ‘days to maturity’ for your variety will also be mentioned on the seed packet or plant label. 

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When the surface is completely covered with the mature color and is still firm to touch but will give a little if you press against the skin, it’s ready to be picked. Don’t wait any longer once the fruit has completely changed color. Once it’s ripe, it will quickly turn soft and mushy if you leave it longer on the vine, and that’s when it will classify as overripe.

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Some gardeners pick the fruit anywhere after the breaker stage (when the mature color first begins to appear on the green fruit) and ripen it off the vine. We’ll explain how to ripen tomatoes off the vine later in the same post. Others believe that the best flavors come from ripening the fruit on the vine. 

What Time Of The Day Is Ideal To Pick Tomatoes

As it turns out, there’s even a best time of the day to pick your tomatoes! Tomatoes lose moisture in the sun. During the night, they replenish the moisture that was lost during the hottest hours of the day. Additionally, starch is converted to sugar overnight. If you pick the fruits early in the morning while the dew is still visible on them, you’ll enjoy the sweetest and juiciest flavors, perfect for snacking right off the vine!

How To Pick Tomatoes

Indeterminate tomatoes will continue producing fruit until frost kills the plant. All the tomatoes will not come to ripen at the same time. Once the first couple of fruits start turning color, you’ll need to check the vines every few days and continue picking fruits as they ripen. Make sure you don’t damage the rest of the plant while picking tomatoes, since the plant will continue developing fruit until the harsh weather gets the best of it. 

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To pick the fruit, grasp the fruit with one hand and the stem behind it with the other. Pull the fruit away from the stem gently, being careful not to pull too hard on the plant. Break the stem just above the calyx, which is the green part at the base of the bud. 

An easier option is to cut off the ripe fruit using pruning shears, or sharp scissors. This eliminates the risk of accidentally tugging on the plant. Keep a little part of the stem attached to lower the chances of rotting in the fruit. 

Can Tomatoes Ripen Off The Vines?

As mentioned earlier, some gardeners prefer to pick tomatoes soon after the fruit starts changing color and ripen them indoors. The same practice is also followed by commercial growers so the fruit can ripen during transport and can reach the stores fresh instead of overripe and mushy.  

Pick the fruit once it’s reached its mature size and has started to change color. There should be at least some part of the surface that has the mature color on it. Pick the fruits and place them indoors at room temperature to ripen. To speed up ripening, place them in a paper bag with a ripe banana. Ripe banana gives off ethylene gas, which helps fasten the ripening process for green tomatoes

How To Store Tomatoes

Whether you ripen them on the vine or off the vine, fully ripe tomatoes won’t last very long. Fully ripe tomatoes will last for about 5 to 7 days in the fridge. If you leave them for longer, they’ll soon start to go bad. They’ll start to go bad even sooner if you leave them on the counter. If you want to store your harvest for longer, turning them into sauce, puree or salsa is a better option. 

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