A not so commonly known fact about tomato ripening is that they ripen from the inside out. What this means is that if your tomato is ripe on the outside, it’s pretty much guaranteed to ripen on the inside as well.
But how to when to pick tomatoes? You’d be forgiven to think that once the tomato is red, it’s ready to be harvested. And while this might be true in some cases, it’s certainly not the case for all tomato varieties.
- When you should pick tomatoes for the ultimate flavor?
- 1. Color Indicator
- 2. The squeeze test
- 3. The Fragrance
- 4. The Separation
- 5. The Season
- 6. The Size
- When you have to harvest the tomatoes earlier
- Techniques for ripening tomatoes quickly and effectively?
- Should you refrigerate tomatoes to ripen?
When you should pick tomatoes for the ultimate flavor?
There are a few ways to know when to pick tomatoes for the best flavor and fragrance.
1. Color Indicator
The easiest way to approach this is to look up your specific tomato variety (there are hundreds of them, so knowing yours would help) and simply google it to see what a ripe tomato should look like.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s separate the tomatoes based on their color, instead of variety.
When are Red tomatoes ready to be collected?
For the most part, all red tomatoes go through multiple coloring phases while developing. Typically, those colors are green, greenish-yellow, yellow, yellow orangish, orange, orangish red, and then red.
Before you proceed to harvest a red tomato, make sure that there are no other colors but red. This is a great indicator that your tomato is indeed ripe and ready to be collected.
Advanced Tip: Instead of collecting it right away from the vine, stop watering the tomato plant for a couple of days. The lack of water forces the plant to concentrate its flavor and sugar inside the fruits. This way, your tomato would be even tastier.
Yes, the plant might experience some watering deficit symptoms such as leave curling, but once you collect your tomato, you can reestablish the watering schedule.
When are non-red tomatoes ready to be picked?
It’s much easier to tell that a red tomato is ready to be collected just by looking at its color. However, it’s a different story for those non-red tomatoes.
A general rule of thumb for the yellow and orange tomatoes is to wait until all of the green colors are gone. In this case, you’d really have to Google your variety to check what a fully ripe tomato looks like.
Now, when it comes to green tomato varieties, or green and another color, it’s a bit more challenging. But there’s a neat trick that you can use. In fact, you can use it for all types of tomatoes.
2. The squeeze test
To perform the squeeze test, you simply grab the tomato on the vine and gently squeeze it. If the tomato is ripe, there will be a little bit of a give. If it’s overripe, your finger might even punch right through it.
If it’s not ripe, the feeling would be very firm, sort of like an apple.
3. The Fragrance
The fragrance of a ripe tomato is really rich. There’s no way to get this one wrong even if you’ve only eaten store-bought tomatoes.
In fact, if you have only eaten tomatoes from a store, you might have noticed how plastic they feel or the lack, the lack of that sweet tomato flavor, and they don’t smell like anything.
If you don’t sense that from your vine tomato, it’s not ready to be cut yet.
4. The Separation
Tomatoes should be easily separated from the vine with a gentle twist or pull. If the tomato is still attached to the vine with a strong stem, it is not ready to be picked.
Leave it for a few more days and then try again.
5. The Season
Tomatoes are a warm weather crop and usually ripen during summer and early fall. The ideal time to harvest tomatoes may vary depending on the variety and the weather conditions in your area.
By paying attention to these key indicators, you can ensure that you are picking your tomatoes at the perfect time for maximum flavor and quality.
6. The Size
Tomatoes should be fully grown and have reached their mature size before being picked. If you’re uncertain how bit your specific tomato variety should be, google it first before picking the fruit.
If the tomato is still small and underdeveloped, it is not ready to be harvested.
When you have to harvest the tomatoes earlier
In some cases, you have no other choice but to collect your tomatoes a bit earlier than expected. The reason could be due to weather conditions, pests, animals, etc. It’s not the end of the world if you really need to pick those tomatoes before they’re ready.
Techniques for ripening tomatoes quickly and effectively?
The first tip here is when you pick your tomato, use a scissor or vine shears to cut the tomato instead of ripping them off. Why you’d ask? Well, removing the stem can open a wound which might lead to some rotting.
The stem helps the tomato to be better-lasting.
Now let’s discuss the list of techniques for ripening tomatoes quickly and effectively, so that you can enjoy the full flavor and nutritional benefits of this delicious fruit.
One of the easiest ways to ripen tomatoes quickly is to leave them out on a kitchen counter or windowsill at room temperature. The ideal temperature you want is between 65˚F and 75˚F (or 18˚C 24˚C).
Tomatoes will ripen faster in a warm environment, so placing them in a sunny spot can help speed up the process. However, be sure to check on them regularly, as tomatoes can overripe quickly if left out for too long.
Tomatoes, like many fruits, produce a natural ripening hormone called ethylene gas. To ripen tomatoes quickly, you can place them in a paper bag or a closed container with a ripe banana or apple. These fruits also produce ethylene gas, which will accelerate the ripening process of the tomatoes.
Another quick way to ripen tomatoes is to place them in the microwave for a few seconds. Be sure to use a microwave-safe container and only microwave for 10-15 seconds at a time. This will soften the tomato slightly and make it easier to eat.
Hot Water Bath
If you have a lot of tomatoes that need to ripen quickly, a hot water bath can be an effective method. Fill a large pot with hot water and place the tomatoes in it for a few minutes. The heat from the water will accelerate the ripening process.
Pruning the tomato plant can also help ripen the fruit faster. By removing the leaves and branches of the plant, you can redirect the plant’s energy towards the fruit, which will make it ripen more quickly.
Picking the tomatoes when they are at least 80% ripe, this will give them time to ripen fully in a controlled environment. We wrote a detailed guide on how to pick tomatoes off a plant that will give you a lot more details and pro tips to do it properly.
Should you refrigerate tomatoes to ripen?
Short answer – Absolutely NOT. If you place your unripe tomatoes in a fridge you’d stop the process of ripening. What the cold of the fridge does to the tomato is stopping the chemical process that’s responsible for the fragrance and flavor of the tomato.
This is one of the reasons why store-purchased tomatoes don’t taste good at all. They are picked too early and then stored in the fridge a lot longer than they should be.
In fact, according to science, you should not store tomatoes in the fridge for more than 4 days. After that period, the chemicals in the tomatoes that are responsible for maintaining the flavor and structure of the tomato start to die. Hence, why they don’t taste good anymore.
If you went through the hassle of planting your tomatoes (including in pots), and taking care of them, be sure to pick them up at the right time for the best flavor and fragrance.