Can we pick our tomatoes while still green,

irishmoeAugust 17, 2007

Hello,

We are new to growing tomatoes. Our plants are doing good just taking a long time to turn red. We are leaving to go on vacation for a week and My Husband wants to pick some of our green tomatoes to take with us. We only have a few that are yellowish orange, the rest are large but still quite green. He is afraid if we leave them behind either critters or human critters may help themselves to our plants. Our plants are visable to the street and we have no gate to prevent people from walking in . I am on the side to leave them and take our chances. Won't the flavor be compromised by picking too soon. What is the prefered way to ripen off the vine. I have been putting them in a brown bag on our window sill. My husband says to put them in newspaper to ripen but I am not crazy about that idea.

Any suggestion will be greatly appreciated.

Maureen

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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

Either way they will certainly ripen. Try a couple ways to see which you prefer.

Good Luck,
Gumby_CT

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Grow the Tomato and 115 Ways to Prepare it for the Table

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 11:02AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Can you pick them while still green? Sure you can. Done all the time. They will ripen laying on the kitchen counter, in a paper sack, wrapped in newspaper in a box (common at the end of the season), or in the car with you assuming they aren't left in the car to cook. Anywhere but in the fridge and some will argue with me about that. ;) And no, there is little effect on the taste.

Many of us (see all the other discussions on this question) pick the fruit early when it first starts to show color just so the bugs and squirrels and grasshoppers don't get at them. What are often called "vine-ripened" tomatoes are green when shipped. ;)

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: Ripening Green Tomatoes

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 11:27AM
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olerist

another technique to speed ripening is to damage the roots which causes a release of ethylene and speeds ripening

if you dont have much more to the season this would be ok

all you do is drive a shovel in a 1/3 to 1/2 sized semicircle about 1ft from the base of the plant

be sure to water and feed to encourage the remaining roots

you can expect the plant to wilt too

I wouldnt do it myself. It just can and has been done.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 11:33AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I disagree that there is little compromise with the taste. Picked tomatoes don't really 'ripen' once removed from the plant....they merely 'redden'. Big difference. The plant can't continue to produce those delectable sugars that we associate with a freshly picked tomato. That can only be done on the vine. Most commercial tomato varieties (the ones that have no flavor) are picked while still green, and then artificially 'reddened' while shipped.

The more sugars that you allow your plant to pack away in the fruit, the better it will taste. Green picked tomatoes are bound to be a disappointment if your taste buds are spoiled by the luscious flavor of vine ripened ones.

Of course, most commercial tomatoes are also bred for longevity rather than flavor. SO, that means that almost any variety of homegrown tomato is going to taste better than what you can get a the super market, even when plucked while still green.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 1:43PM
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ediej1209(5 N Central OH)

When the heavy frosts start coming, we pick all the green tomatoes off and wrap them individually in newspaper and put them in a box in a cool but not cold place (like a closet). We've had tomatoes sometimes until close to Christmas using this method.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 2:26PM
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oregon_veg(8)

I agree with rhizo,
I think the process should come to full fruition.
People consantly have this argument over store bought or home grown. Most times the difference only being in the time of picking and forced redding. (okay, there is the hybrid/OP debate, but that's another story).
Besides, don't you think you're kinda robbing your plants of the pleasure of producing red ripe toms for you. Talk about dissapointing them! They go through all this trouble. Withstanding the harsh elements of sun,, rain, wind. Just to make you happy. What do you do? pluck em dry early.
shameful, just shameful.....
:-(
Tom

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 3:12PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

While I agree that "taste" is very subjective and what is great for one person is just ok for another, for the most part the brix - sweet/acidic balance that determines taste of a tomato - is determined by it's variety and growing conditions, not its time on the vine.

Fruit left to ripen on the vine are great when conditions are ideal. But in situations such as the OP asks "ideal" doesn't exist. Same goes for leaving them on the vine during heavy rains - that gets you cracked watery-tasting fruit - or leaving them on if you choose to spray for pest infestations or disease, or during excessive dry spells. Ideal growing conditions have ceased to exist.

In addition to genetics, taste can be affected by growing conditions (soil ph, fertilizers, available nutrients, watering, etc.) but that is all part of the growing to the ripening stage part. Once that stage is reached the green tomato (especially if it has begun to blush at the blossom end) has all that it needs to turn into a perfect tasting tomato while sitting on the kitchen counter. And it will have the added advantage that it won't be cracked, sun-burned, split, bug bit, stink-bug sucked, coated with pesticide, bruised, watery tasting, or stolen. ;)

To each his own. :^)

Dave

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 3:36PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Dave, you are one hundred percent correct regarding your 'flavor factors'. Genetics, soils, and cultural conditions all play a huge part in the taste of our tomatoes. Well, maybe 99%, lol! Because it is an absolute fact that the plant cannot contribute sugars to the tomato fruit once it is picked. 'Reddened' tomatoes are like white bread, stale beer, flat cola, salt-free anything, fat-free cheese....well, you get the picture. ;-)

If I felt I had to pick my tomatoes green or even partially ripe, I would surely stop growing them. I don't mind an occasional cracked fruit, who cares if stinkbugs sneak a taste, I never use toxic pesticides, have never had sunburn on any fruit, and don't have a problem with tomato robbers. Well, the chipmunks and I have had a little talk! Grrr

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 5:05PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Ahh rhizo - If I felt I had to pick my tomatoes green or even partially ripe, I would surely stop growing them. No way would you do back to them store-bought things would ya? ;)

Care to share what you told the chipmunks that worked? Think it would work on my squirrels? They are being selective - only going after the experimental heirlooms now - the buggers!! #^(

Dave

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 7:25PM
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irishmoe

>>

Oh Dave,
I am right with you on this one. However DH always tries to sneak them into the fridge. He is of the Cold is tastier camp. It does no good to tell him the flavor is ruined. Thankfully we have had so many of the grapes ripening it hasn't been a problem. He has his bowl and I have mine. LOL

Thanks for all the tips. I think we will pick a few to take with us for the week and take our chances on the rest.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 8:17PM
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jbann23(6 RI)

I always pick tomatoes just as they start to redden. They ripen perfectly on the kitchen counter away from direct sunlight in a couple or three days. Gotta protect those beauties, ya know. Really green ones won't develop that ripe taste that those close to finish will. I think they redden on the vine when the plant no longer feeds them, so it doesn't do any harm to pick them when they start to redden. My humble opinion.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 8:30PM
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oldroser(z5)

Since you're only going to be away for a week, I'd pick those that are already starting to change color - turning a paler,chartreuse green - as they will ripen in a couple of days. The rest can wait until you get back.
Agree that vine ripened tastes better. But the ones that are already turning will be over-ripe on your return, so pick them bfore you leave.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 6:24AM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

Rhizo,

Would you care to tell us exactly at what stage of development a tomato fruit has attained its maximum sugar content? Please refer to research data rather than personal taste perception.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 9:47PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Found this one article (linked below) from U. of Nebraska with some interesting reading on what constitutes quality in a tomato. Item 5 on the list discusses color and the continued ripening that takes place after harvest.

It also discusses some factors - besides taste buds - affect taste.

Also found Hot Weather Threatens Tomato Plants article from K-State with some interesting reading on how high air temps could cause a deterioration in taste if fruit is left on the vine to be affected by the excess heat and sun.

"Tomatoes develop their optimum nutrition, color and flavor when theyÂre in the full red-ripe stage. But getting to that point doesnÂt have to occur on the plant," explained Chuck Marr, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.

Tomatoes go through specific steps, Marr said, in developing "vine ripeness":

* A gas called ethylene regulates the ripening process. Tomatoes start producing this gas internally when they reach full size and become pale green.

**** When tomatoes turn about one-half green and one-half pink (called the breaker stage), a layer of cells forms across their stem, sealing them off from the main vine. At this stage, tomatoes can ripen on or off the vine with no loss of quality or flavor.

A breaker-stage harvest also allows you to protect tomatoes from the heat extremes of summer. Tomatoes canÂt form their red pigments when temperatures are above 95 degrees. TheyÂll still ripen, but theyÂll end up a yellowish-orange."

Are these guys authorities and is it based on research and if so, what kind? I assume so but don't really know. Just info offered for consideration.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: What is Quality in a Tomato

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 10:32PM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

Thank you, Dave. I think that article answers the question as it most probably supplies the pertinent information (that at breaker stage, a tomato contains its maximum sugar content) based on research data.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 7:45AM
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plantcompost

I don't equate great tasting tomatoes or great tasting anything with 'the sweeter the better'. Yuck! I like a 'tomato' taste. I also refer to pick my tomatoes a little early just as the color starts.

Many cultivars have been bred to taste sweeter. Uur taste buds in modern society are overloaded in sweet products. Sugar in everything containing tomatoes from spaghetti sauce to ketchup.

If I want 'sweet', I'll put a spoonfull of sugar in my mouth. If I want just the right balance of sugars and tomato taste then I'll keep picking my tomatoes on the green side.

When I'm in the garden it's a treat to pop slightly green cherry tomatoes into my mouth. Yummy!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 6:30PM
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organic_dang

Hello Tomato-ites,

Just a comment on store bought tomatoes. Many commercial growers on the west coast (California) are now growing tomatoes organically and RomaÂs or paste tomatoes are red before they are removed from the fields. I have for years listened to and believed the debate that commercially grown tomatoes are evil and possessed of devils, not to mention they taste bad.

BUT U.S. growers are now producing better tomatoes in many cases. Now you may not like RomaÂs but there are other determinate and indeterminate verities grown in the fields of Northern California that are mighty tasty. I grow my own and have for years but I travel south to California and have the opportunity to test these commercially grown ruby delights. They are mighty tasty, organic, and red!

I will still grow many of my own but can find good ones even in a store. Green tomatoes or red you can find them sweet and tasty. There are literally hundreds of tomato varieties out there to choose from with ripened colors of green, yellow, red, purple, blue, black, striped, and so on. Red is not always an indication of ripe although it is the most commonly grown color type.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 1:51PM
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