So, you have grown the plants and now you see that there are some tomatoes on them just waiting to be harvested, but how exactly do you do it? Well, in actual fact, the methods that are used can have an impact on the volume of the harvest as does the way in which you have looked after the plant up to this particular point.
However, in this instance we are going to look more specifically at how you are able to know when they are ready to be harvested along with how to potentially expand the harvesting period so you get more tomatoes for your efforts.
1. Understanding that the Fruit is Ready.
If we can begin by looking at how you know when the fruit is ready because there is nothing worse than getting too excited at the prospect and picking the fruit only to find out that the tomato is not as juicy or as packed full of flavor as it should be.
What you should know is that there are a number of clear signs to look out for that will indicate that the tomato is indeed ready to be harvested. Also, you have some simple tests to carry out that even a beginner will be able to follow and understand.
Check the outside of the tomato - First, you need to check the outside of the tomato itself as this is going to tell you a lot of what you need to know about how ripe it is going to be. By examining the outside you are looking at the color, and that is going to really help you out. Ideally, the skin should be quite smooth and there should be a slight shine to it as well.
Mature Colors - A tomato ripens and changes color from the bottom up and it goes through various stages whereby it starts off green (if we are talking about the normal red varieties) and then it will have slight changes to the green with some orange or yellow coming through before that then becomes more uniform and slowly turns to red. If there is still some green on it, then you are able to pick it but then the color will continue to change but the flavor will stop in its tracks. Check the bottom to see the mature color that you should be looking for as this makes life easier.
Feel the firmness - Another thing to look at is the firmness of the fruit. Ideally, the tomato should be firm to the touch but it should also have just a slight amount of give at both the bottom and the top although it should not be enough that the fruit is then damaged. If it is firm all over the tomato, then you have to give it a bit longer before you think about harvesting it.
Test the weight - One other area is the weight and if the tomato feels light then it means it is not quite ripe. A tomato that is ready to be harvested will certainly feel heavier and at that point it is ready to be eaten straight away.
Smell - Finally, there is the smell and this is the part that surprises a number of people. In general, a tomato that is ready to be harvested is going to have a sweet smell to it and it is also going to be quite earthy around the stem. If it smells very sweet then there is a theory that this means that the fruit is going to be packed full of flavor.
In addition, you need to pay attention to how the tomato is still hanging onto the vine. Ideally, a tomato that is ripe should need very little persuasion to detach from the vine and if it is putting up any kind of resistance then it does mean that it has to still be stuck on the vine for that little bit longer. You should not really need to go and use a knife to cut it off as that just means that you are a bit too eager to pick the fruit.
2. How to Harvest the Fruit.
Next, we have to look at how you harvest the fruit because, once again, you really should know what to do as there are some people that will go ahead and actually damage the tomato plant itself and this can then inhibit its growth and ability to produce even more fruit.
Primarily, what we are talking about here is knowing the correct time to harvest the fruit and we have already looked at the key points above that tell you when the fruit itself is ripe and ready. For most varieties you are looking at the harvest coming towards the end of the growing season but as we are growing them indoors this is something that can be extended. For most tomato plants you are looking at the harvest coming towards the end of summer.
If we can jump forward slightly and assume that you have done the correct checks and you know that it is ready to be picked then you have to take some key steps so that you do not then damage the plant.
When picking the fruit hold it quite firmly in your hand but do not squeeze it too hard or you do run the risk of damaging the fruit. With your other hand, hold onto the stem of the plant as there can still be some resistance from the fruit if it is not quite ripe enough to be picked and you could easily pull part of the vine off and damage the other tomatoes close to it. A gentle twist of the tomato with a slight pulling motion should also then be enough to separate it from the vine. If you want to be a bit more technical then you break it off at the calyx which is the green leafy part at the top of the tomato.
3. How to Extend the Harvest.
Now, would it not be amazing if you were able to go ahead and extend the harvest of your tomato plants as that would then mean you could enjoy the fruits of your labor for a longer period of time? Well, there are things that you can do in order to make this a reality and as with so many things connected to tomato plants it is also not that complicated.
What we are talking about here is taking certain steps to make sure that the tomato ripening season is extended rather than you being hit with all of these flavorful tomatoes at the one time as so many can then end up being discarded especially if you have a number of plants. In order to extend the season, think about these following ideas.
First, cut back on the amount of water that the plants are getting when you are coming towards the end of the growing season. This is going to stop the fruit growing and make it turn towards ripening instead.
Also, you need to look at how much fruit is on an individual plant and look at picking excess fruit especially when you know that the colder temperatures are coming. With this, remove the fruit that is green as it is still going to ripen even sitting at a window as it is just the flavor that is halted. However, it will then free up space for those tomatoes that are already partly changing color to fully ripen on the vine as it means that the tomato plant can put all of its energy towards these tomatoes rather than trying to spread its energy over a larger number of fruits.
To slow down the process you can also pick the tomatoes earlier when they are still green and then place them in a cooler area that is still able to get enough light. They need higher temperatures to really get those colors going so breaking that particular cycle will mean it takes longer to ripen without the fruit turning bad. If doing this, pick them when the color is just changing on the tomato and make sure that you then wash them and dry them as the moisture can make them rot. You must also avoid storing them in an area where there is high humidity.
By doing just these couple of simple things you can extend the harvest time of the tomatoes and in doing so you are going to be able to enjoy them for longer than you would ever have believed to have been possible.
4. How to Store the Newly Harvested Tomatoes.
Finally, we need to look at how you are going to be able to correctly store your newly harvested tomatoes because you do not want to go through the entire process of growing them only to then see them lying in the trash can as you did not store them correctly and they are no longer edible. However, storing them is not a difficult thing even though you do need to understand what you are doing.
Here is one thing that you must not do, and yet most people make this mistake, but you have to keep your tomatoes out of the fridge. So many people think that this is going to preserve them for longer, but that is not actually the case. The colder temperatures will soften them and they will also lose some of their flavor.
What you should do is to use a bowl and line it with paper towels. Place the tomatoes with the vine part to the top and you have to be careful with the top of the tomato as this is where it is most delicate and any bruises here will lead to the tomato rotting. Make sure that they are not in direct sunlight and also avoid placing them in temperatures that are too warm. Somewhere quite dark and cool is going to be perfect. Also, move them every now and then so that there is not too much pressure on the one part of the tomato as this can also lead to some bruising and that is the start of the end of the tomato.
As you can see, when it comes to you harvesting tomatoes then it is actually a lot easier to do than you were perhaps fearing. However, you do need to check things carefully because picking too early is only going to result in you spoiling the fruit and being rather disappointed at your haul for all of the effort that you put into it. Also, we showed you how to store those freshly harvested tomatoes and if you are growing a number of plants then there is every chance that you could be left with a huge influx that you will not want to ruin.