How to pick ripe tomatoes


In most of the country, it’s time to pick the tomatoes that have been growing in gardens since spring. Mid-July through September are the prime times for harvesting tomatoes. If you’re new to the world of tomatoes, check out these tips for making the most of your crop.

Are my tomatoes ripe?

If you want to know if it’s time to pick your tomatoes, look for these characteristics:

  • The tomato’s skin is glossy
  • The tomato has a deep, bright color. Some tomatoes may not be red; there are green, yellow and orange varieties.
  • When touched, the tomato “gives” slightly, but isn’t so soft that it feels mushy
  • The tomato should feel dense when held

What else should I know about tomatoes?

Here are some other ideas to keep in mind as you plan your tomato harvest:

  • Pay attention to seed or seedling information. This will indicate the typical growing period so you’ll know when to expect ripe tomatoes.
  • Harvest your tomatoes often. Check your garden daily in order to keep up with the ripe fruits.
  • If you notice tomatoes that look rotten, or are bruised, take them off the vine and throw them away. Only keep healthy-growing tomatoes.
  • You can also choose to ripen tomatoes after they’re off the vine, especially if your garden is prone to pests or if it’s going to frost. Put tomatoes out on the counter, on a tray or in a bowl. As long as they’re kept at a moderately warm temperature, they’ll ripen.
  • Farm and Dairy online columnist Ivory Harlow explains how to ripen green tomatoes indoors.
  • Brown paper bags can be used to ripen tomatoes, too. After picking tomatoes, wash off any dirt and dry them, then place them in the bag and close the top. Check the bag daily for newly ripened tomatoes.

My tomatoes are ready to eat. Now what?

Itching to make something with your garden’s tomatoes? Here are a couple easy ideas:

Sun-dried tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes are a delicious addition to many dishes. This simple recipe from The Prairie Homestead is a great use for your garden tomatoes.

Canning tomatoes

Canning tomatoes is a staple in many homes. You can easily make spaghetti sauce, stewed tomatoes for soup bases and more with these recipes from Simply Canning.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Online columnist Ivory Harlow’s simple fried green tomato recipe is a great way to use up green tomatoes that you’ve ripened indoors.

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  1. Thank you, Miss Katie! Good tips.

    Our ‘maters here in northern Portage County still haven’t turned red yet, but garsh, they sure are big and green. Musta been our chilly Spring here. We can wait for home-grown ‘maters.

    (they are NOT like those pink, tough, “tennis balls” in the big box stores!)


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