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Garden Tips for the Garden State – Picking Tomatoes

Flickr - Photo by photofarmer

Every year it’s the same thing, I forget just how long it takes for those tomatoes to ripen up.  I’m stuck in tomato limbo, waiting patiently for any sign of red.

As I was out in the muggy heat this week picking my first run of Purple Cherokees and Brandywines, I was reminded of a simple tip for picking tomatoes which, I’m pretty sure, most gardeners are unaware of.

So when should you pick your tomatoes?

It would seem as if letting them stay on the vine until they were completely soft and deep red in color would be the only way to achieve maximum sweetness and flavor.  This is actually not true.

Surprisingly, at about 60% of the way to ripe, the tomato is actually no longer connected to the vine.  It is at this precise point in its life that it can and should be picked.

Essentially, it has gotten all it can from the leaves and roots and is now just hanging out waiting to catch the eye of the next passing animal.  It’s like graduation day for the that tomato. It has learned all it can and must now go out into the real world and make it on its own.

If it’s more then halfway to full ripeness, go ahead and pick it.  It wont feel right, but it’s okay. Sure you can leave it on the vine as most gardeners do. It will ripen up just fine, but the more time is spends outside the greater the chance it will get eaten by bugs, or birds, or worse.

Once picked, bring your tomatoes inside and turn them upside down.  Don’t put them by a window or in direct sunlight, and you don’t need to use a banana either.  They will be perfectly ripe after a few agonizingly long days.

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