Knowing how and when to pick tomatoes is a tough job for many beginner gardeners. The size and color aren’t reliable factors in deciding about the ripening of tomatoes. Soil fertility, tomato varieties, and weather conditions are essential factors.

How and When To Pick Tomatoes

Keep reading the article to learn about effective harvesting methods at the correct time.

How To Determine When To Pick Tomatoes and How To Do It?

To determine when to pick tomatoes and how to do it, you should examine their look, taste, and fragrance. If they’re relatively soft, juicy, and aromatic, then they’re ready to be picked. Picking them is easy – just grab and pull one. If it comes off easily, then it’s ripe.

Hold the tomatoes firmly and remove them gently by supporting the stem with the other hand. This will break the stalk above the calyx. The death of the top vines symbolizes the correct time to harvest tomatoes.

There must be more than knowing the best time to ripen tomatoes. Knowing the simple steps to harvest tomatoes is essential before knowing the right time.

1. Count Days To Getting Mature

These are the days it takes a tomato to ripen fully after being planted. You are free to choose between early-maturing varieties and late-maturing varieties. Early maturing tomato varieties take up to fifty-five days to get fully ripe after transplanting.

On the other hand, late-maturing varieties take up to eighty-five days to ripen after transplanting. It is suggested to plant in the early summer or mid-summer season so you have time to harvest a good crop of tomato fruit.

2. Check for the Right Fruit Color

The most commonly asked question is, “Can you pick Cherry tomatoes when they are green? Yes, you can pick cherry tomatoes when they are green, but the flavor will not be ideal. Unless the tomato variety you have produces fruits that are green when ripe, they’ll contain solanine, which is toxic to humans. Normally, green, unripe tomatoes are only good for pickling.

Before picking tomatoes from the plant, wait at least until they start to change color. The shade of color is a good indicator of tomato ripeness. The ripening stage of tomatoes is all dependent on the shades of the color.

Check for the Right Tomato Color

You can check the seed pack or the seed catalog to know the exact color of the ripened tomatoes. It’s easier to quickly observe red tomatoes than green, yellow, or pink tomatoes.

If you are an expert at growing tomatoes, it won’t be difficult to know the mature color of your fruits. It becomes easier with experience to judge maturity, but you can still go for any other cue indicating maturity.

3. Examine the Feel

Every indicator of tomato maturity has its importance, just like one can’t ignore the feel of a tomato for harvesting. An unripe tomato will have a firm structure, while a ripe tomato will have a softer skin. Both of the structures are likable. A tomato is ideal to be picked when its skin is a mixture of firmness and softness.

4. Perform a Taste Test

You can taste a small sample if you can’t determine the tomato’s ripeness based on visual and olfactory cues. Select a large tomato to provide a small slice without damaging the plant.

Cut a small slice from the tomato and taste it. Ripe fruit should have a sweet, slightly tangy flavor. If it is sour or bland, it may not be ripe.

You can go for another trick if you don’t want to ruin a growing tomato by cutting a slice. Harvest a single small tomato from the tomato plants and taste it. If you are unsatisfied with its taste, you can wait another week before harvesting tomatoes.

5. Do a Smell Test

To conduct a fragrance test to check the ripeness of a growing tomato, start by picking a tomato that has started to change color from green to red or yellow. Gently squeeze the tomato to see if it has a slightly soft texture.

Next, bring the tomato up to your nose and take a whiff. A mature tomato should have a sweet, slightly musky fragrance. It may still need to be completely ripe if it has no scent or smells slightly sour. If the tomato doesn’t pass the fragrance test, leave it on the plant for a few more days to see if it develops further.

6. Check the Size of the Tomatoes

Size is another factor you need to consider before picking tomatoes. Small-sized tomatoes mature faster than large-sized tomatoes. It’s justified if you ask, “When to pick beefsteak tomatoes?” in confusion. But asking, “When to pick cherry tomatoes?” doesn’t make sense as they ripen a lot faster than larger varieties.

Check the Size of the Tomatoes

Large-sized tomatoes get attention easily due to their size. You need to focus attentively on the small-sized tomatoes, so you don’t get late harvesting them.

7. Harvest Your Tomatoes When They’re Ripe

When tomatoes ripen, the time to harvest them arrives. For harvesting, grasp the tomato and twist it away from the stem. Cut the tomato from above the flower-shaped leaf, called the calyx.

Don’t be harsh while cutting the tomatoes, as the softer ones will collapse. Many tomatoes that are too ripe will only need a gentle push to get free.

Some stalks are thick, so they cannot be cut easily. In such a scenario, carefully use the garden scissors to cut by leaving some small part of the branch with the tomato. If you notice the stem cracking while picking the tomatoes, don’t let them hang for long again. Whenever you plant tomatoes next time, pick them as soon as they change color.

Remember that the tomatoes that are spared from the plant earlier don’t tend to have as much taste as those that are ripened on the plant. So, maintain your tomato plant to avoid getting unripen and tasteless fruit.

8. Store Your Tomatoes

Storing tomatoes is another challenging task after harvesting them. Exposing the freshly harvested tomatoes to direct sunlight will result in the over-ripening of tomatoes which will spoil the fruit.

You can save your tomatoes in a cupboard or on the counter under a shady spot. One other step you can do is to place your harvested fruit on the table in a fruit bowl. The bright colors of the fruit will attract the visitor as well. You can keep the fresh tomatoes on the counter for a few days if it’s not too hot inside.

How To Identify the Ripening Stages of Your Tomatoes?

To identify the ripening stages of your tomatoes, you need to look at the color and texture of the fruits. You’ll also need to learn what the ripening stages are, from the green stage to the turning stage, pink stage, and red or fully ripe stage.

Most people like to eat their tomatoes when they turn fully ripe. But it’s informative to know about the ripening stages of tomatoes. After learning about the ripening stages, you may easily differentiate between completely ripened and unripe tomatoes when picking a tomato.

1. Green Stage

The green stage is the initial stage of the fruit’s development. At this stage, the fruit starts turning green from the inside. No change appears on the outside of the fruit. If you pick green tomatoes, they will be tasteless.

2. Breaker Mature Stage

In the mature breaker stage, you will observe the colors at the blossom end of the tomato skin. It indicates the production of ethylene that is responsible for ripening tomatoes.

Breaker Mature Tomatoes

The skin starts to develop further, and the plant is set to stop providing nutrients to the fruit. Around 10% of the fruit surface will contain multiple colors like red, yellow, and pink. If you pick tomato at this stage, it has a vine-ripened flavor. You can ripen them fully by keeping the tomatoes indoors.

The fruit is safe from insect damage at this stage. The tomato is attached firmly to the plant due to the excessive moisture so it will not crack itself.

3. Turning Stage

The turning stage is the point where the tomato further matures and develops more colors. Almost 10% to 30% of tomato’s skin starts getting matured colors like reddish and pinkish.

4. Pink Stage

In the pink stage, the tomato starts getting even more colored, with over 30% of its surface colored but it doesn’t exceed 60% of the tomato skin. You will feel the softness if you touch the tomato at this stage.

5. Light Red Stage

The light red stage proves that the tomatoes are nearly completely ripe. At this stage, 60% to 90% of the tomato skin gets colored. You can harvest your heirloom tomatoes at this stage if you want.

6. Red or Fully Ripe Stage

If you want a fully colored tomato, pick it up at the red stage. The taste bud of every individual varies. Some like to pick the tomatoes at the mature breaker stage, while others like to cut the tomatoes when they turn red.

Red or Fully Ripe Tomatoes

When to pick Roma tomatoes? You can pick Roma tomatoes when they turn completely red. When to pick tomatoes before frost? If you have to pick the tomatoes at the green stage due to the start of cold fall weather, which can be in the middle of fall or later, depending on where you live, you can ripen them inside the house.


You are now ready to harvest your tomatoes after going through the multiple ways and the correct picking time. Take the important points before leaving.

  • Research well about the variety of tomatoes you are growing.
  • Perform the feel, fragrance, and taste tests to check the ripeness level.
  • Store picked tomatoes away from direct sunlight.
  • If you want ripe tomatoes, morning is the best time of day to pick tomatoes.
  • Harvest your tomatoes carefully to save the fruits and the plant.

We hope you have all the required knowledge regarding how and when to pick tomatoes, given the right conditions. So when are you doing it?

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