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How to Pick or Harvest Your Summer Tomatoes

Updated on September 28, 2012
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Tomatoes are a wonderful healthy vegetable packed full of Vitamin C, fiber, potassium, beta-carotene (Vitamin A), and cancer-fighting lycopene. They are a great garden vegetable and since they are relatively easy to grow, they are a popular selection in many home gardens. They can be grown directly in the garden or as an individual plant in a container.

Tomatoes can be used in so many great recipes from Italian sauces and pasta dishes to salsas and flavorful rice recipes. Summer is the season when many gardeners have an abundance of tomatoes and this article will cover how to harvest your garden tomatoes, store them as well as suggestions on what you can do with them.

Harvesting Your Tomatoes

Pick tomatoes when they are fully ripe and very red on the vine. They will be firm on the outside and might still be a bit yellow around the stem. The color should be even (red all over) and not green on one side.

To remove the tomato from the vine, grasp and twist. You may also use clippers to remove the tomato.

Continue to check your tomato plants every day or two for ripe tomatoes so that you can pick them before they become overripe. If the temperatures outside have been over 90⁰F, you may need to pick tomatoes before they become overripe. The higher temperatures can slow down color development. In this case, store the picked tomatoes out of direct sunlight indoors until they ripen.

Tomato plants will continue to produce fruit until the first frost in the fall. Make sure to harvest any remaining tomatoes a day or two before a hard freeze is expected. Unripe tomatoes can be stored in a paper bag at room temperature until they ripen.


Storing and Freezing Your Tomatoes

Fresh picked tomatoes are best when stored at room temperature. Refrigeration will slowe the ripening process but may also take away some of that fresh tomato flavor. Refrigerating your tomatoes will however slow the ripening process and extend the shelf life of your tomatoes for another 2-3 days. Warm them to room temperature before slicing if possible.

Freezing tomatoes is a great way of making use of all of those summer tomatoes. Freezer tomatoes are great for cooking as the freezing process tends to make them a bit mushy. You can freeze them with or without the skins. For freezing with the skins, just wash and core them and place into zipper freezer bags. Make sure to try and remove as much air from the bag as possible. If you wish to freeze them without the skins, blanch first and them you can put them whole or chopped into the freezer bags.


Ideas for Using Your Tomatoes

Recipe ideas for your fresh picked tomatoes:

  • Sliced tomatoes on your sandwiches
  • Chopped tomatoes in fresh salsa
  • Chopped or sliced in green salads or make a basic tomato salad with vinegar and oil, salt and pepper
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes on pizza
  • Eat the tomato as it is, fresh from the garden

Recipe ideas for your fresh frozen tomatoes:

  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Tomato sauce to use in a variety of recipes

So take advantage of your summer abundance of tomatoes. Harvest them to use now in a variety of recipes and also for use throughout the winter. Tomatoes are one of the most versatile ingredients and can be used in so many different recipes. Enjoy!

If you have any suggestions for using your summer tomatoes, share them below!

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