Rule #1 for Harvesting Tomatoes - Do No Harm!
When harvesting tomatoes, take care not to damage the plant. It's best to use two hands. Use one hand to hold the plant just above the stem. Use your other hand to pluck the fruit from the vine. This will ensure that you don't inadvertently break off a large part of the vine when picking a tomato. It may also be beneficial to twist the tomato slightly while tugging at it to ensure that it will release easily from the vine.
Harvesting tomatoes should take place when the fruit is brightly colored and is slightly soft to the touch. A gentle squeeze will tell you if the tomato is ready to be picked. If it is still quite firm, leave it on the vine to ripen further. Tomatoes that are left to ripen on the vine will have a much fuller, sweeter flavor than those picked too early and left to ripen on a window sill.
Typically, a ripe heirloom tomato will still have hints of green at the stem end. As long as the bottom portion of an heirloom tomato is brightly colored and it is soft to the touch, go ahead and harvest it.
If the fall frost is right around the corner and you still have lots of green tomatoes on the vine, you still have options. You can pick the green tomatoes and place them in a paper bag to ripen further. Make sure to store this bag at room temperature in your kitchen. You can also cut the vines themselves and hang them (with the green tomatoes still on them) in a dark place, such as a garage or basement. These tomatoes may not ever turn red, but they will ripen to a softer stage and can be used in a variety of green tomato recipes.
After harvesting tomatoes, store them at room temperature in your kitchen. DO NOT put tomatoes in the refrigerator as this will make them mushy and less flavorful. If you choose to keep your ripe tomatoes in a bowl, inspect them carefully everyday. Once a tomato begins to rot, it will release gases that will cause the other tomatoes in the bowl to begin to rot as well. Discard any tomatoes that are showing signs of deterioration as soon as possible.
Click here for some great tomato juice recipes and to learn about the health benefits of juicing -
After the growing season is over, pull the plants up by the roots. Cut them up into several pieces and add them to your compost pile.
We hope you have a bumper crop of tomatoes. Now it's time for a few tomato recipe ideas.
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