When to harvest tomatoes

dirtguy50 SW MO z6a(6a)July 16, 2013

At what stage do you harvest your tomatoes? I have noticed quite a few people don't let them ripen on the vine because of the birds and critters get them when they are ripe. Do they suffer in taste or texture if ripened inside in a paper bag? Thanks everyone.

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fireduck(10a)

D...I have been studying tomato growing hard lately. This is what I have learned: 1. Get touch-feely with the fruit. Near-ripe fruit feel softer/suptle. 2. Black varieties have green shoulders remaining when ripe. 3. Picked a little early....taste does not suffer much. 4. I think the brown bag thing is more for avocados. 5. My birds are not that interested....

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 10:22AM
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jenniedhs

I pick mine when they are just starting to show color and then let them ripen on the kitchen counter. You don't need a paper bag. I learned on this forum that once they begin to color there is no benefit to leaving it on the plant. There is no difference in taste from "vine ripened" and a lot less chance of squirrels or birds destroying them.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 10:27AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

No paper bag needed, just counter top ripening out of direct sun is best.

Paper bags create ethylene gas and force early ripening. When fruit are picked at the breaker stage (blush of color on the blossom end) they already have everything from the plant they will get (other than more water to dilute flavor). Breaker fruit will fully ripen naturally with no loss of taste or texture.

In case you haven't already read them there are lots of discussions here about this the search will pull up if interested.

Dave

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 10:29AM
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njitgrad

I'm with Dave and others. On the kitchen counter out of sunlight. I pick mine usually when they're at least half ripened (or sooner if they're showing signs of splitting).

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 10:52AM
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robertz6

Depends on a number of things. If there are no animals around, you can wait until the day you eat it. But to be sure there are no animals around you'll need a outside dog 24/7.

I often pick the first few large toms a few days early just so I won't get a heart attack when a squirrel takes a big bite out of it. There are three bowls of water out, not for the dog, just for squirrels. But they eat some tomatoes anyway.

Cherry tomatoes are great for late fall taste, and for squirrels. One year the cherry plants were so productive, after a two inch rain one plant had 300 fruits split.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 1:09PM
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dirtguy50 SW MO z6a(6a)

Thanks everyone for the great information. Just picked about a dozen nice Rutgers and Beef Masters that are half ripe or a little more. They sure look a lot better on the counter top versus in a brown paper bag you can,t look at.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 5:45PM
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cooperbailey

Thanks for this information. I thought they had to ripen fully on the vine.. I have already had critters beat me out of two big tomatoes. One last night just had the pink area bitten out and left on the vine. I suspect rats. The battle begins.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 8:19AM
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fireduck(10a)

C...hunt down those rats. Those good-for-nothing varmits need to die! They can not mess with your maters! hehe

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 11:08AM
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robertz6

Deer have been a problem this year and the last couple of years. They eat the tops of some folks tomato plants. You'd think there would be lot of other things to eat in my area of the suburbs.

Those folks without a dog might borrow a neighbors dog for a few hours. They could comb some of the dogs hair out, and distribute it around their garden area. And if the dog could be encouraged to urinate, that would be another plus. The big box store around me sell bottles of predater urine for $20 or more. Maybe wolf or coyote urine, can't recall exactly which it was. Dog urine may not be quite as good, but its sure cheaper!

I also put down moth balls (the smelly kind) around smaller tomato plants earlier in the season.

My third layer of defense is the el-cheapo fence. Drive a few wood stakes around your tomato patch. Take a reel of VHS tape and wind three strands along the stakes. Fairly tight. Place a couple of the cheapest (mine are $1) solar lights inside the tomato area. The idea being that the movement of the tape will deter deer from coming too close to the tomatoes. The solar lights give just enough light off to allow the deer to see the tape.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 2:15PM
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squirrelwhispererpup(9a)

I always pick my tomatoes at the breaker stage and they fully ripen without any problem. I had some exceptionally large clusters this year and feared the bluejays and mockingbirds would peck them so I slipped a piece pf cut up panty hose over them and went on to enjoy large ripe and flawless tomatoes later.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 11:19PM
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robertz6

A ounce of mouthwash in a gallon of water has been suggested as a spray for tomato fruit that you are worried about.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 11:29AM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

I tried both the paper bag method and the kitchen counter method last year and found the kitchen counter method was much quicker! The tomatoes in the bag took forever and a day to ripen!

Sometimes I pick them when they first have that "blush" on the bottom. :)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 4:06PM
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dirtguy50 SW MO z6a(6a)

Dave, do you do anything with feeding the tomatoes when they start to blush? I like to pick them before the other critters want them for lunch. Thanks neighbor!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 9:53PM
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robertz6

I put a piece of apple in the bag when tomatoes are picked early and placed in a paper bag.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 3:51PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Dave, do you do anything with feeding the tomatoes when they start to blush? I like to pick them before the other critters want them for lunch. Thanks neighbor!

No my feeding is primarily steady fertigation. If any boost is needed then it is timed to right after each fruit set episode.

I put a piece of apple in the bag when tomatoes are picked early and placed in a paper bag.

That is ethylene gas ripening just as commercial growers use on a big scale. It is a rushed and artificial process. You might as well buy store tomatoes rather than grow your own.

Dave

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 4:53PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Good to know that you don't have to wait for them to get full color on the vine and risk on birds, rats, squirrels and CRACKING.
I don't like it when the birds get it before I can...hahah

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 3:59AM
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