This Is When To Harvest Your Tomatoes

When To Harvest Your Tomatoes

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It’s exciting watching your tomato plants slowly start to bear fruit. You’ll be able to watch them turn from flowers to green fruit to a bright red. But when is the right time to pick your fruit? 

You will need to pick them as soon as their color is starting to change from green to red. After this time, they won’t be able to absorb any more nutrients. You might need to leave them in a cool room for a few days before they ripen enough to eat. 

Picking the right time to harvest tomatoes is important. Too early and it won’t ripen, making it taste inedible. Too late and it will go off before you will be able to eat it. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about when to harvest tomatoes. 

Should You Pick Tomatoes Before they are Red?

Examining the color of the tomato is the best way to know when it is time to harvest them. While most of us are used to getting vibrant red tomatoes from the store, this isn’t the best time to harvest them. 

You should harvest them when they are green. Then, give them a little time to off the vine to mature and turn red. Once they have started to turn red, they have already absorbed all the nutrients they can. Because of this, they won’t get any additional benefits from staying on the vine. Sometimes, they might even be too heavy, dragging down the vine. 

Removing them from the vine at the right time will stop the fruit from bruising. Often, this approach will give you the best flavors. Plus, it keeps the plant productive if it makes fruit throughout the year. 

There are a few signs that it’s time to start harvesting the tomatoes. These include: 

  • Green with red beginning to emerge. Once you see the tomatoes beginning to change from red to green, that’s your cue to remove them from the vine. The entire tomato should have a bit of color, rather than just one side. 
  • Check the firmness. It’s also important to think about how firm the tomato is. It should have a little give when you squeeze it, but you don’t want something too soft. 

How to Harvest a Tomato

Once you’ve found some tomatoes that are suitable for harvesting, it’s time to talk about how this can be done. There are two ways that you can do this. 

The most common is to gently take the tomato in your hand. Then, start to twist the stem. When it is weak, give it a gentle pull. You don’t want to pull too hard or you risk squeezing the tomato and spilling the juice. In most cases, the stem should come away cleanly. 

The other option is to get scissors and cut through the stem. This is most common in species that have a thick stem. It can also be a good way to get a uniform cut, which can make it look more presentable for a market stall. 

How Long Until Tomatoes Are Ready to Harvest? 

How long until your tomatoes are ready to harvest will depend on the species. Generally, though, it will be between 60 to 85 daysOpens in a new tab. after you first plant the seedlings in your yard. Usually, once the flowers start to appear, it will be around a month before the fruit starts to emerge. 

Once the tomatoes are ready for harvesting, you should start checking the plant every day. You don’t want to leave the fruit on the vine for too long. If you do this, it will start to rot. This will attract unwanted attention from insects and other pest species. 

How Many Tomatoes Does the Average Plant Produce?

This can depend on the species. Usually, though, a single plant can produce 20 to 90 tomatoesOpens in a new tab.. So, you’ll get plenty of practice harvesting your plants. 

Tips to Get the Best Tomato Harvest

The simplest things can determine how successful your tomato harvest becomes. These factors includeOpens in a new tab.:

  • Prepare the soil. You’ll need to make sure that they have plenty of nutrients in the soil. This includes micronutrients, like magnesium. Mulch or compost can be used to add more nutrients.
  • Rotate garden beds. This will make them less likely to develop infections, as it gets harder for pests to find your garden beds. 
  • Give them plenty of sunlight. Tomatoes are a species that will need plenty of sunlight to thrive. While they might still be able to grow in the shade, it might make it harder for them to produce large fruit. 
  • Transition them to the outside environment slowly. This is a process known as hardening the seedlings, allowing them to get used to the outside environment. This is especially important if you live in a colder climate. 
  • Prune tomato suckers. Whether you do this will depend on your approach to gardening. On the downside, you will get less fruit. On the upside, the tomato plant will be able to dedicate more nutrients to the fruit that remains. Because of this, they will be larger. 

Storing a Tomato

Once you have finished your harvest, you should have plenty of tomatoes that are just starting to ripen. You can improve the flavor by making sure that they are being stored properly. Here are a few principles to remember when storing tomatoesOpens in a new tab.:

  • Put it in a cellar or cool room. You don’t need to store your tomatoes in the fridge. But you don’t want to leave them in a warm room. The hotter the room, the faster they will ripen. The best compromise is to put them into a cellar or a pantry. Ideally, the temperature should be between 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (12 to 23 degrees Celsius). 
  • Don’t stack the fruit. You don’t want to leave the fruits stacked on top of each other. The constant pressure might lead to bruising. 
  • Stand on the shoulders. The shoulders are the part of the tomato that is nearest the stem. These are more solid than the base, so they are less likely to bruise, which is why tomatoes should rest on their shoulders. 

How Long Does a Tomato Last? 

Tomatoes aren’t known for their long shelf life. To slow the ripening process, you should keep the tomatoes away from heat. If you are storing it in the fridge, it will often only last for around two weeks. Because of this, you should eat the tomatoes as soon as they are ripe. 

While it will increase the life of the tomatoes, the colder temperatures will also lower the amount of enzyme activity. This can dampen the flavors. Thankfully, there is an easy way to solve this problem. You just need to leave it on a room-temperature bench for a few hours. This should be enough to restore enzyme activity and make it tastier. If they have already been stored in the fridge, you should leave them in the fridge until you are ready to eat them. 

Signs that a Tomato has Gone Bad

Tomatoes won’t last forever. There are a few signs that they might have gone off. The most common is wrinkling skin. You might also notice that they are starting to leak fluid. Sometimes, you might also notice a fuzzy white substance growing on the surface. This is mold. Once you see any of these signs, the tomato should be discarded or used for compost. 

Final Thoughts

Most of us are used to seeing bright red tomatoes. But you shouldn’t leave your tomatoes on the vine for this long. You should take them off just after they start to turn red. This gives you more time to use them. Plus, you don’t need to worry about overripe fruit attracting insects and pests as it rots. 

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