Tomato Talk

Tomato Talk

A Full Season of Tomato-Growing Information

Harvesting Tips

Tomatoes in a wire bowl

Make sure your tomatoes get good air circulation, and don't keep them in the fridge—it destroys their flavor and texture.

The best tomato flavor develops when fruits ripen on the plant. Harvest by gently twisting the tomato so that its stem separates from the vine, or use scissors. Store tomatoes in a single layer in a cool, dry place, or on a kitchen counter—but never in a plastic bag or in the fridge. Plastic bags do not allow the ethylene produced as tomatoes ripen to escape, thus speeding up the ripening process considerably. Don't ruin a crop unintentionally. The refrigerator is too cold for tomatoes: Temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit will ruin the flavor and texture of your tomatoes, making them flavorless and mealy.

If you don't have enough counter space for your bumper crop of tomatoes, keep them in wire mesh bowls or colanders to allow some air to circulate. Want to ripen tomatoes without rotting them? Place a tea towel over your tomatoes. The towel allows some ethylene to escape while ripening for end-of-season fruits more quickly.

Not sure if your heirlooms are ready to harvest? Some heirloom tomatoes are green when ripe, like Green Zebra, or are multicolored, like Mr. Stripey. Unless your heirlooms are a golden variety or are mostly gold when ripe, they typically will still have a green tint at the stem end when ripe, like Black Krim, or Cherokee Purple. 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.

Leave your tomatoes to ripen as long as possible until the end of the season. When frost nears or your plants are done producing, pull tomato plants entirely and let remaining tomatoes ripen inside (or make wonderful recipes with green tomatoes like pickled green tomatoes and salsas). If your plants showed signs of disease during the growing season, your safest bet is to remove them entirely instead of adding them to home compost piles.

Got fresh tomatoes? Try this Yellow Tomato Salsa with Lemongrass

This fresh, flavorful salad for six can be prepared in 45 minutes or less, but requires additional unattended time for flavors to blend.

Yellow Tomato Salsa with Lemon Grass

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 8 stalks of lemon grass (available at Asian markets and some specialty produce markets), with outer leaves discarded, ends trimmed, and 5 inches of the lower stalks minced
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • Cayenne to taste
  • 6 medium yellow tomatoes (about 3 pounds), sliced crosswise
  • Whole pear and currant tomatoes (available at specialty produce markets) or yellow cherry tomatoes for garnish

In a small bowl whisk together the oil, lemon grass, shallots, lemon juice, garlic, zest, coriander, cayenne, and salt to taste. Add sliced tomatoes. Preserve tomatoes for two hours in mixture and then divide the tomato slices among six salad plates. Spoon the dressing over them, and let the salad stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Garnish each serving with some of the whole pear, currant, or cherry tomatoes.