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HarvestingNov 04, 2021

When to Pick Tomatoes

Tips for harvesting your fresh tomatoes

Tomatoes are an incredibly popular (and delicious) plant to garden. They are fairly easy to grow, can come in many varieties, and have many uses in the kitchen.

After you’ve put in all the effort to plant and grow your tomatoes, you may be wondering when the best time to harvest is. Typically it takes 18-22 weeks from seed to harvest, but knowing the perfect time to pick a tomato can be more complex. It’s a terrible feeling when you either get mushy tomatoes from picking too late, or flavorless ones from picking too early.

Luckily, these tips can help guarantee your harvest is as delicious as possible!

The basics:

You’ll know when to harvest tomatoes by examining three things: color, firmness and maturity.

  • For most tomatoes, harvest once the fruit is fully red (or close to it) and just a tad soft.
  • For varieties that aren’t typically red when fully ripe, you will want to check on your harvest schedule to see how mature the plant is.
  • Raddish can help you keep track of your planting schedule and remind you when it should be time to start harvesting!
  • When in doubt, pick a little early since tomatoes will continue to ripen after you’ve harvested them.

One of our biggest tips is to just trust your judgement. When you think a tomato is ready to pick, try one! You want the fruit to come off the vine easily (if you need to yank, it’s not ready) be full of color, smell earthy, and taste great.

tomatoes on vine

Getting more specific:

Allowing tomatoes to ripen on vine or on your counter:

Vine-ripened tomatoes offer the best flavor, but aren’t always an option if the temperature or sunlight gets too extreme or you can’t check in on them as often. To harvest vine-ripened tomatoes, pick when the tomato is fully covered in its ideal color, it comes off its stem easily, and the skin hasn’t yet cracked. If the skin cracks, it’s more likely to attract pests so keep an eye out!

Indoor ripening: If the temperatures where you’re gardening consistently go over 90°F or below 60°F, it may be best to allow your tomatoes to ripen indoors.

  • Many know that frost or cold temperatures can damage tomatoes, but did you know that too much sunlight can actually stop the ripening process? This is why sunshades or leaving some extra leaves to protect the fruit are recommended.
  • Pick when tomatoes are matured or basically fully grown, but when they have only started to get their color (this is often called the “breaker” stage). Color arrives first on the base of the fruit as it works its way up to the “shoulders” where it connects with the vine. As long as there is some color appearing, your green tomato can be picked and successfully ripened indoors.
  • You can harvest tomatoes that are pretty green, but you want to make sure they’ve at least “matured” or grown as much as they can before ripening. If you pick a tomato that is too green, it might not fully ripen or the fruit will get mushy over time.

green tomatoes on vine

Quick tips:

  • Don’t put in fridge or they’ll lose a lot of flavor and texture! It can also prevent further ripening.
  • Most canning recipes call for barely ripe tomatoes, so keep that in mind and pick a little early.
  • Picking tomatoes before they are ripe can also be beneficial for indeterminate tomato varieties because it allows more fruit to begin growing.

As you have read, look and feel should be able to guide you when picking tomatoes, but it can get a bit tricky and takes some trial and error. Raddish can help take some of the guesswork out by nudging you when it’s time to transplant and harvest!

cherry tomatoes

We hope you now feel prepared and excited to enjoy your abundant tomato harvest! For more tips on planting, growing and harvesting tomatoes, head to the Raddish grow guide.

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