The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Ripening tomatoes on the vine versus indoors

Ripening tomatoesWhile researching tomato blemishes, I stumbled across a piece of data that seems unbelievable to me --- vine ripened tomatoes taste no better than those picked at the first hint of red and ripened indoors.  Chuck Marr, the horticulture program leader at Kansas State University Research and Extension, says:

“By the time the tomato has its first blush of red color, the layer of cells – called an abcision zone – is complete, and you can pick the tomato with no loss of flavor or quality.  If left on the vine after that, all the tomato will do is hang there, disconnected, going through the rest of the ripening process.”

Marr says that you can avoid most of the cosmetic problems I discussed in this lunchtime series by picking your tomatoes early and ripening them in your kitchen out of direct sunlight.  The blogger who tipped me off to this process notes that storebought tomatoes taste awful not because they were picked too soon, but because they are a variety bred to be tough and easily transportable.

I think it's time for a taste test!  I've picked a couple of blushing tomatoes to ripen in the kitchen, and will report on our taste test in a week or so.  I hope some of our loyal readers will try it at home and report back too.

A niche produce is the key to our microbusiness model.

This post is part of our Minor Tomato Ailments lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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We almost always pick our tomatoes at the first sign of red. We started doing this to get to them before the chickens. The girls just love ripe tomatoes.

I don't notice any difference in taste and their fresh storage life seems to be longer.

Comment by Erich Fri Jul 23 12:44:10 2010
Tomato and strawberry seasons are the primary reasons we don't let our chickens free range on the farm, although it also drives me nuts when they kick up my carefully-laid mulch. Thanks for reporting in your experience with picking tomatoes at the blush stage!
Comment by anna Fri Jul 23 14:33:55 2010

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