Homegrown tomatoes are here at last. Fruits are quickly changing from green to their ripe colors of red, pink, orange or yellow.
You can let tomatoes ripen on the vine or bring green-shouldered ones indoors to finish ripening where they are safe from sunscald, insects and soggy soil.
As long as they are never chilled, tomatoes that complete the ripening process indoors will taste as good as those that ripen in the sun, and they will last longer, too.
Harvest and Store Perfect Tomatoes:
- Pick in the morning or evening, gathering those that appear at least halfway ripe. Large heirloom varieties often ripen from the inside out, and should be picked when they feel quite firm, even if they still have green shoulders.
- Gather all almost-ripe fruits just before heavy rain is expected, especially cherry tomatoes. Drenching rains following periods of dry weather can cause fruits to crack because they cannot handle the sudden oversupply of water.
- Handle tomatoes as gently as eggs. Pokes, cracks or bruises can invite problems with fruit rot. Place a soft cloth in the bottom of your picking basket to cushion the fruits, and pile them no more than two deep to avoid squashed tomatoes. Remove the leafy green caps from tomatoes as you pick them.
- Clean your tomatoes. Rinse and wipe to remove any dirt or garden residue.
- Sort according to ripeness. Place the least ripe in a paper bag with the top folded shut, or arrange them in a single layer on plates or trays. Cool temperatures delay final ripening, so you can choose between speeding up the process by keeping your tomatoes in a warm room, or slowing it down by ripening your tomatoes in the coolest room in your house. As long as tomatoes are kept above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, their homegrown flavor will not be compromised.
When you have no time to preserve your ripe tomatoes, simply stash them in the freezer. Cherry tomatoes can be frozen on a baking sheet and transferred to freezer bags, ready for use in soups, salads or sauces.