Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in Kansas. And that's because they can be used in so many different ways -- sliced fresh, in salads, made into salsa, spaghetti sauce, and much more! But, what's the best time to pick them?

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When to Pick Tomatoes

Everyone wants to know “when should I pick my tomatoes?” And, although we all like to see them in this beautiful dark, red color, we really don’t need to wait that long. And sometimes we can actually get into trouble while waiting too long to pick our tomatoes. Once the tomatoes starts to show a little blush of color we can go ahead and pick that tomato, take it into the house, and ripen it on the counter or tabletop and it will go ahead and continue this beautiful red color.

If we wait too long, we might actually run into some problems that we can avoid. Like cracking, which is a very common problem. It’s caused when there’s so much water going into the tomato that the skin actually splits. We can try to remedy that with using mulch to try to keep the soil moisture even, and by providing regular,even watering. We can even see cracking sometimes after a really heavy rain.

Another problem is blossom end rot, and you can see it here. It looks like a dark, sunken leathery patch, and this too can be caused by problems with watering.

Sometimes when we leave tomatoes on the vine during extremely hot weather, they may turn kind of a gaudy orange color instead of the pretty red color that we like. This is because at temperatures over ninety five degrees, that red pigment doesn’t develop. And that’s another good reason to let your tomatoes ripen in the house where it’s a cooler temperature, so we get a nice red color.

You do want to let them fully develop that beautiful red color before you refrigerate them. Once you put the tomatoes into the refrigerator, that stops the ripening process. If you have a lot of tomatoes, you can go ahead and either can or freeze them, to use in the winter months. There’s so many things that you can do with frozen and canned tomatoes.

If you have questions on tips about growing or preserving tomatoes, you can also contact your local extension office.
This feature story prepared with Evelyn Neier, Kansas State University Research and Extension Youth Specialist.

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