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Nothing tastes like a fresh tomato! Harvesting tomatoes at the right time means you get fantastic flavor. Fully-ripened fruit tastes much better than fruit picked early.
That’s because once a tomato is picked, it is cut off from its main oxygen source. But even when a tomato is picked before it is ready, it continues to ripen. Its sugars are now processed without a steady supply of oxygen and are converted into compounds that promote decay -- ketones, aldehydes, and alcohols. Sugar decay impacts taste. Tomatoes simply won’t taste as good as those picked in their prime.
You’ll start picking about 60-85 days after planting seedlings in the garden. Harvesting tomatoes continues until frost (if you have some indeterminates in your crop). Early varieties, obviously, ripen earlier than mid-season varieties.
Determinate tomatoes set and ripen their fruit all at one time, usually within two weeks. Be ready for a large harvest – its a good time for canning tomatoes, freezing tomatoes, making homemade tomato sauce, or canning tomato juice.
Indeterminate varieties ripen all season long. You can help them to set fruit earlier by pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer.
You know a tomato is ripe when –
Grasp a ripened tomato gently and firmly. Twist it until it snaps off the vine.
You can also use a garden clippers or knife to harvest tomatoes. Cut the stem close to the fruit.
Once tomatoes start ripening, check plants each day and pick those that are ready. Overripe tomatoes will fall or be knocked off stems. They rot quickly. You can easily lose a big portion of your crop if you don’t monitor your patch and keep harvesting tomatoes!
More on ripening and harvesting tomatoes
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