Tomatoes are a real centerpiece of any backyard vegetable garden. In fact, nothing beats the taste of a homegrown tomato picked fresh from the vine at harvest time. It is the time when all the fruit of your labor comes full circle, and rewards come through in a beautiful bounty of fresh-picked treasures. Check out our detailed guide on how and when to pick tomatoes so that you can enjoy and share your yield.
In this video, Brijette from San Diego Seed Company in zone 10b, shares her pro tips on when and how to harvest tomatoes up until your first frost.
Tomatoes reach their peak harvest times between the months of July and September, but there are a couple of options when it comes to the optimal time to pick these juicy, sweet veggies. Ideally, they can be harvested at their prime or earlier, as they are capable of ripening after picking.
Tomatoes come in an array of flavors and colors that range from reds, oranges and yellows, greens, and even striped. To figure out when to pick tomatoes it is crucial to know what varieties you are growing and their peak hue so that you can get the most out of your high producing plants.
You can expect to begin your tomato harvest when plants have grown for 70-90 days, and the temperatures hover between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Tomatoes start ripening from the blossom bottom of the fruit, so that is one of the prime indicators that your tomatoes are beginning to ripen and a key to what color they will be. As tomatoes change to their peak colors, look for smooth, soft, glossy skin and uniform color that yields a bit when gently pressed with your fingertips.
Leave tomatoes on the vine as long as possible to achieve their desired level of ripeness. When you surmise that your tomato is ready to pick, twist fruits off of the vine individually. Check your tomato plants daily and harvest their fruits continually. If you pick them a bit too early, they can be left on the counter to ripen further. You can also place them in a paper bag; stem pointed upward with an apple. This will speed up the ripening process.
As the season begins to come to a close and the weather starts to get cooler, you may want to prune off less developed tomatoes from the vine and sacrifice them for the more mature ones. Less developed fruits will not have sufficient time to develop fully, so it is beneficial to take them off. This pushes energy back into the plant and its more mature fruit, producing more substantial late-season beauties.
With so many varieties of tomatoes to choose from, it can be hard to decide which to grow. Explore and try different types and determine what kind of tomatoes suit your needs and your tastes. Here are a few of our favorite tomato varieties to get you started as you bring tomatoes from farm to table this season.
- ‘Super Sweet 100’ produces billowing vines that are loaded with sweet cherry tomatoes. These are a high yielding cherry tomato, which is great for eating as a standalone and makes a colorful and tasty addition to salads.
- ‘Brandywine’ produces a large, meaty tomato and boasts a beautiful pink tone. They are great tasting and act as fantastic sandwich slicing tomatoes.
- ‘Mr. Stripey’ has a unique and colorful look to its fruit, and its unique striations of color make this variety a conversational showstopper in the garden.
- ‘Beefsteak’ tomatoes are classic tomatoes that grow to over a pound of juicy meaty flesh. They are standard garden tomatoes and can be found readily in garden centers. Keep in mind that their large size may make them prone to splitting on the vine.
- ‘San Marzano’ is known for its low acidity and incredible sweetness. It also has limited seed cavities and is a beautiful canning tomato.
- ‘Dixie Giant Golden’ is a super sweet beefsteak variety of tomato that looks like a ball of sunshine growing in the garden. These ample yellow beauties can grow to over a pound in size and are lovely sliced on sandwiches or places in salads.
- ‘Garden Zebra’ is a unique looking tomato that breaks the norm in both color and flavor. Boasting a green tomato with yellowish stripes, this tomato is a beauty and has a more tart taste than most tomatoes.
- ‘Early Girl’ is an early season showstopper. It produces the earliest tomatoes that you’ll find in the garden, has a delicate sweet flesh, and continues to produce throughout the summer season.