Tomato Basics: Ripeness, Storage Flavor – Heirloom Tomato

Tomato Basics: Ripeness, Storage Flavor - Heirloom Tomato

Get ready for a delightful treat! Unlike the uniform and hard tomatoes you find at grocery stores, homegrown tomatoes come in a wide range of shapes and offer much better flavors. Let’s dive in and learn more!

Ripeness & Storage:

While fried green tomatoes are delicious, it’s generally best to pick tomatoes when they are fully ripe. Tomatoes may change color after being picked, but their flavor doesn’t develop further, so it’s advisable to leave them on the plants for optimal taste.

When should you pick your tomatoes? You can harvest them once they start showing a hint of their final color. The longer you leave them on the plant, the more flavorful they become. Remember, tomatoes ripen from the inside, so when the exterior appears ready and feels soft, it’s time to pick them and enjoy them promptly!

You might notice some tomatoes splitting on the vine. These are bursting with juiciness and flavor, and they’re perfectly good to eat. To minimize splitting, reduce watering, as excessive moisture leads to more juice in the fruit. This change will also enhance the concentration of flavor in your tomatoes.

If you need to harvest tomatoes before they’re fully ripe, you can certainly do so, but please remember this important rule:


Cold temperatures ruin the flavor and texture of tomatoes. Similarly, warm temperatures after picking are detrimental. Ideally, store your tomatoes between 55º-70ºF, away from direct sunlight, and with their stems up to prevent bruising.

If you can’t consume all your harvest in time, don’t worry and don’t throw them away! Here are some options for you:

  1. Share them with friends or even those you’re hoping to reconcile with. They’ll appreciate the gesture.
  2. Make sauce using one of our recipes.
  3. Freeze them.
  4. Dry them.
  5. Can them.

So there you have it. Remember, leave the fruit on the vine for as long as possible, picking them when they are nearly ripe and soft. Avoid firm tomatoes. And please, never refrigerate your tomatoes. Enjoy the flavors to the fullest!

Flavor Basics:

The acidity level defines the characteristic flavor of tomatoes. A true tomato strikes a delicate balance between acids and the desired sugary sweetness that we associate with these fruits. If a tomato is overly sweet, it lacks the defining acids and can taste bland. Generally, lighter-colored tomatoes contain less acid and have sweeter and milder flavors. Varieties like Great White and White Beauty embody this mild and sweet flavor without the tanginess that some consider essential to a true tomato taste.

Pink and red varieties like Brandywine Pink and Stupice achieve a perfect balance between sweet and acidic flavors, making them popular choices for overall taste. Dark, black tomatoes such as Cherokee Purple and Paul Robeson excel in acidity. With less sugar to mask the distinct earthy flavors inherent in their fruit, many consider these dark tomatoes to offer the most sought-after taste.

However, it’s important to remember that taste preferences can vary. What one person perceives as acidic, another may find sickly sweet. The best way to know for sure is to try them yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

*Just to clarify, we don’t harbor any ill feelings toward grocery stores. In fact, they do a commendable job considering that their tomatoes are picked by machines, transported across the country in trucks, and sit on store shelves for days. For a tomato to withstand this process, it needs to be tough, and store-bought tomatoes certainly are.

**Speaking of stores, they harvest tomatoes when they are green and use ethylene gas to turn them red.

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