A neighbor asked me recently when was the best time to pick tomatoes. In the past, I always left mine on the plant until they were very ripe. Recently, I’ve been picking them sooner.
Last year we visited Natura farm and learned that CSA farms pick tomatoes a bit sooner than fully ripe. Generally, vine-ripened means the tomato has started to ripen on the vine. This allows growers to ship when the tomato is still somewhat hard, and deliver it to consumers just as it reaches perfection. Makes sense. The farmer I spoke with said there’s little to no difference in flavor between partially vine-ripened and fully vine-ripened.
So how do you define partially vine-ripened? My definition: the tomato is starting to turn red. It might not be fully, bright red, but it’s more red than green. You can see there’s a range of colors that fit this description:
Of course some of these pictured are yellow ‘blondkopfchen’ cherry tomatoes, which often do end up being fully ripe before I pick them because they ripen fast (they get eaten fast, too).
If you, like me, are cursed with squirrels eating your tomatoes just as they reach perfection, here’s one solution — pick the tomatoes a few days early and let them ripen on your counter top.
Those green zebras at the top were tricky — I’ve never grown them before so I wasn’t sure what their final color actually is (I could have just googled it). But Tracey, you were right: they are absolutely delicious.
One final word: never refrigerate tomatoes–home-grown or store-bought. They lose flavor in the fridge. Even the Washington Post agrees with me on this one.
This just in: apparently storing tomatoes stem-side down makes them last much longer. (Thanks Laura!)