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by Brett W.
Dear Tomato Dirt,
I know this is a seemingly obvious question, but the fact is I think I may be to eager to pick my tomatoes. (Who can blame me, really?)
I just picked a perfect Miss Kathy -- a large pink tomato. But I had to cut it off the vine. The tomato just didn't want to release. Although it looks perfect and ready to eat, it still has green shoulders.
So I'm looking for some input on when to pick. I don't like leaving "ripe" tomatoes hanging on the plant, weighing it down, and waiting for a bird to come along and peck at it. What should I look for in a tomato to know that it's ready to pick? (I realize you can't help me with the patience part.)
Thanks for your advice!
Dear Eager Beaver Brett,
That's a beautiful tomato. With just one or two more days, it would probably be absolutely perfect.
There are at least four ways to tell if a tomato is ready to pick.
1. Uniform color.Tomatoes ripen from their blossom end up to their shoulders. A tomato is perfectly ripe when it has an even, smooth color from top to bottom.
If you pick tomatoes when their color is not uniform, keep in mind that when you pluck it off the vine, its flavor development stops. (The color will continue to develop while the tomato sits on the counter.) If possible, wait until the last minute.
2. Touch.You can also check for ripeness by feel. A ripe tomato should be firm, but with just a little give especially on the bottom and shoulders.
3. Vine readiness. As you pointed out, your tomato resisted coming off the vine - and indicator that it needed a bit more time on the plant. Most ripe tomatoes pop off in your hand when you grasp them and twist. (Some larger tomatoes have larger branches and may require a knife.)
4. Taste. Ultimately, flavor and texture are the best indicators of ripeness. Sample a tomato you think is ripe. If it needs more or less time on the vine, then adjust your harvesting for that variety and that plant accordingly.
Keep an eye on all your tomatoes daily so you can harvest them when they're evenly-colored, firm to the touch with a bit of give on the vine, and a fresh, flavorful taste!
Your friends at Tomato Dirt
Harvesting tomatoes - when to pick
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