Many years ago, I read in our local newspaper that I was harvesting my tomatoes in the worst possible way: I was letting them ripen on the vine.
What? The grocery store sells vine-ripened tomatoes. Aren’t these the best? Isn’t there a produce supplier that calls itself “Vine-Ripe Tomatoes.” Truth is, vine ripening is hype. Unless you carefully control your soil’s nutrition, watering, and the climate, ripening on the vine is not what it’s cracked up to be… and all that activity makes your small kitchen garden anything but a lazy garden.
Do your vine-ripened tomatoes have any of the following problems?
- There is a hard ring of flesh around the top that isn’t as tasty as the rest of the tomato.
- The lower part of the tomato is dead-ripe or even starting to rot while the top of the tomato is still green.
- There are rings of thin white skin around the top of the tomato, blemishing the healthy, red skin.
- There are cracks that run from the stem down the sides of the tomato, and some start to turn black before the rest of the tomato is ripe.
Here’s the easiest way to cure these problems:
When you see pink on your mostly-green tomatoes, pick them. Yes, I’m telling you to pick your tomatoes when they’re almost completely green.
Leave the tomatoes someplace out of the elements. I typically fill a large stainless steel bowl with my nearly green tomatoes, and leave it on my dining room table. If you’re meticulous and you like the bowl idea, put the greenest tomatoes on the bottom, and stack more on them so the ripest tomatoes are on top. As you pick more nearly-green tomatoes, stack them in a separate container.
Monitor the tomatoes casually: have a look each day. In three days to a week, you’ll be able to pick ripe tomatoes from the bowl, and most of the tomatoes will ripen at about the same time. You can leave the ones that ripen first for several days as the slower tomatoes catch up.
If this whole idea sounds crazy, then do a test with a few tomatoes: pick three or four that are showing their first pink, and set them aside till they’re ripe. Compare the quality with your vine-ripened, challenged tomatoes. You might decide to harvest all your tomatoes this way.
Other’s thoughts about harvesting tomatoes, and about what to do with them after the harvest:
When To Harvest Tomatoes – I’d pondered this issue when I first started growing tomatoes. Reading advice from various experts, the “ideal” first choice is to allow the tomatoes to ripen on the vine, are fully red (or other color, such as yellow, depending on the …
De-hydrating the Harvest: Tomatoes, Pears and Apples – Last year when working at the farm in Tehachapi I lucked out when I had an excess of tomatoes combined with a thoughtful friend and farm volunteer, Kristin, who provided me with a perfect tool for preserving the excess for winter use. …
A garden meal – As I was working in the garden last weekend, I took stock of our harvest: tomatoes, eggplant, basil, tomatillos, spinach, beans and peppers. The tomatoes and eggplant needed to be used, so I decided to take advantage of the cooler …