How To Pick the Last Tomato

This summer my kids and I grew a gigantic crop of tomatoes and we should try and pick them all before the last frost. It is probably best to pick your tomatoes before they are fully ripe. This means harvesting the fruit at first blush.

A tomato picked at first sign of color and ripened at room temperature will be just as tasty as one left to fully mature on the vine.  Picking tomatoes before they turn red reduces damage from birds.

Never refrigerate tomatoes picked immature. Place them in a single layer at room temperature and allowed them to develop to their full color. If you want them to ripen fast, place them beside a bunch of bananas. If your tomatoes are green there is a simple way to tell if they are ripe enough to pick. Simply harvest one tomato and cut it open. Examine the seed inside the fruit. If the seeds are covered with a clear gel, which causes them to move away from the knife, then that fruit will eventually turn red and ripen. If the seeds are cut by the knife then those fruit will never properly ripen and you should leave the unripened plants on the vine or bush a little longer.   

Tomatoes should be firm and blushing with color before you even think of disturbing them on the vine. They are of highest quality when they ripen on healthy vines and in daily summer temperatures that average about 75°F.  This is also the best time to pick them without traumatizing the plants. P

icking tomatoes in wet weather is not recommended as it may wound the plant and make it susceptible to viruses and bacteria.  Never rinse a tomato plant before you pick its fruit either. To pick a tomato politely, grab it by its base and give a short quick twist.  Avoid tugging and pulling at any part of the plant. If the plant is tall and gangly, you can brace its stem gently with your other hand. Make sure you have not been smoking or handling tobacco products before you do this. Fresh ripe tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, refrigeration renders them tasteless and turns the flesh to mealy mush.  Flavor and texture begin to deteriorate when the temperature drops below 54°F.

Temperatures above 80°F cause tomatoes to spoil quickly. Store tomatoes at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, away from direct sunlight until ready to use. If you want them to ripen faster, then it is okay to store them in the sunlight.  To ripen tomatoes quickly, place them in a paper bag, stem end up. Punch several holes all around the bag and fold the top over. The bag will help to keep some of the natural ethylene gas in place, which aids in the ripening process. Depending on how green they are, tomatoes may take one to five days to ripen. I am looking forward to all the BLT's and tomato sauce I am going to be making in the upcoming weeks.