When to pick and how to store your homegrown tomatoes

When should you pick your homegrown tomatoes?

For the best of vine ripened tomatoes, I don’t pick tomatoes until I’m ready to eat them…

When are homegrown tomatoes at their best flavor?

Look for these signs to pick for vine ripened flavor:

  • They have turned red on the vine (or yellow for yellow tomatoes, pink for pink varieties, and so forth).
  • Their color is even, and the entire tomato has color.
  • They are a tiny bit soft when squeezed (like a tiny bit soft on a ripe avocado).

You can also pick just ripening tomatoes and finish the ripening process inside. Set them on your kitchen counter, in a box, in a bag, under your bed, etc., and they will finish ripening.

They don’t need the sunshine. They will not have vine ripened flavor when you pick them early. Tomatoes ripen best between 68 and 77 degrees. At 55 degrees outside temperature, it takes a week or two or longer to ripen than at 65 degrees.

In hot weather, above 85 degrees, the pigments that turn tomatoes red may not develop. So the tomatoes may be a whitish green or greenish orange after the ripening process. Go ahead and pick these early and finish ripening inside … but not in the refrigerator.

Once you taste, eat your tomato. If you do not like the flavor of your tomato, don’t plant it again next year.

Big Beef Hybrid, produces lots of tomatoes. Vine ripened when red and a tiny bit soft when squeezed.

Big Beef Hybrid, produces lots of tomatoes. Vine ripened when red red and a tiny bit soft when squeezed.

Where should you store your ripe tomatoes?

For the best flavor, whole tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Once refrigerated for even a few hours, tomatoes begin to lose their flavor. Keep cut up / sliced tomatoes in the refrigerator.

The best place to store tomatoes whether store bought or homegrown is on the counter top at room temperature.

What about ripening store bought tomatoes?

Most store bought tomatoes are bred for thick skins so they don’t easily bruise, then picked green just barely turning blush/red. Then given ethylene gas to begin/speed up the ripening process. Store bought will never taste like a vine ripened tomato. At least not so far.

To improve your store bought tomato a littletry leaving your supermarket tomato that was picked green then gassed on the counter a few days or so at room temperature where it will continue to ripen. Maybe it will get a little better for eating; remember that at some point it will begin to rot.

Can green, rock hard tomatoes be ripened?

Tomato plants naturally as in nature use ethylene gas produced by the tomato plant to ripen each tomato. If the ripening process has not started on its own, try using a banana to speed things up. Bananas, green or ripe (leave peels on), give off lots of natural ethylene gas. Ethylene gas promotes ripening of avocados, bananas, mangos, some melons, papayas, pears, persimmons, pineapples, and tomatoes. If any of these are too green to eat, try putting them in a bag with a banana in a warm place and check daily until ripe. May take up to couple of weeks.

Cherokee Purple Heirloom is one of my favorites. For the best tasting vine ripened tomatoes, don’t pick until you are ready to eat.

You are welcome to share this information with others—family, friends and clubs, etc.

Sharing tips helps us be better growers.

Dave Freed / 🍅 the Tomato Guy