Harvest tomatoes at the right time for garden-fresh flavor – St George News

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File photo by Unsplash, St. George News

CHARACTERISTIC – Nothing beats the flavor of garden-fresh tomatoes. Harvesting when fully ripe ensures the best flavor for fresh eating, cooking and storing.

Tomato ‘Tye Dye’ in the garden with red and green tomatoes to be harvested, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of MelindaMyers.com, St. George News

Visit your garden often and watch the fruit turn from green to full color. Then leave them on the plant for five to eight days. Vine-ripened tomatoes have the best flavor for use fresh or canned.

Check the plants regularly and keep harvesting, so the plants keep producing. It also reduces problems with insects and disease organisms that attack overripe or rotten fruit. Store ripe, fully colored tomatoes in cool conditions of 45 to 50 degrees with high humidity. They will last about seven to 14 days under these conditions.

When you grow indeterminate tomatoes, you’ll notice the plants continue to grow and produce more flowers and fruit until frost kills the plant. Redirect the plant’s energy from sprouting new flowers and fruit to ripening the fruit that is already on the plant. Prune the stem end of indeterminate tomatoes about a month before the first average fall frost in your area. This allows existing flowers to develop into fruits and existing fruits to ripen before the end of the growing season.

Extend the harvest season with floating covers. These fabrics allow air, light and water to pass through, but trap heat around the plants. Protecting plants from early fall frosts often gives more tomatoes time to ripen.

Sometimes you can’t protect plants from frost, or hungry creatures prevent you from fully ripening tomatoes on the plant. You can pick any tomatoes that start to show color before the killing frost and finish ripening them indoors. The tip of the flower should be greenish-white or beginning to color. Use blemished and cracked fruit right away, as it does not store well.

Make sure your garden is in top condition with these gardening tips from USU Extension, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of USU Extension, St. George News

Store green and underripe tomatoes in a cool place of 60 to 65 degrees to maximize their storage life. Place the tomatoes on thick paper apart so that they do not touch each other. Or wrap them individually in newspaper so that the fruit does not come into direct contact. This helps prevent the rot from spreading from fruit to fruit.

These tomatoes will ripen over the next few weeks. You can speed up the process by moving a few tomatoes to a bright, warm spot a few days before they’re needed.

Extend the tomato season next year by growing a Long Keeper. The flavor isn’t as good as vine-ripened fruit, but you can pick them before the first fall frost and enjoy garden tomatoes for up to three months.

And don’t let the rest of the green tomatoes go to waste. Use them for frying, chow-chow, green salsa and other tasty treats.

Keep harvesting and enjoying your garden-fresh tomatoes for as long as your growing season allows. Then make room to store them for a few weeks after the first fall frost.

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