Welcome to Tomato Talk, where we’ll talk tomatoes all season long.
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August 15: Harvesting Tips
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.
Make sure your tomatoes get good air circulation, and don't keep them in the fridge—it destroys their flavor and texture.
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 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 Lemongrass
8 stalks of lemon grass (available at Asian markets and some specialty produce markets), the outer leaves discarded, ends trimmed and 5 inches of the lower
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