When to Pick

How to Tell When to Pick Your Tomatoes

Harvesting tomatoes is important for tomato plants to continue growing and producing. Knowing when to pick tomatoes when they are ripe and ready is not a natural skill for many people and it takes a few tries to really know when it is a good time to pick tomatoes off the vine.

Harvest season is usually during warm weather at an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and generally 60 to 85 days after seedlings have grown. The early varieties including Springset, Spring Giant, and Campbell can be harvested at 65 days. Main season tomatoes have larger fruits and include the Beefeater, Big Boy, and Manalucie, which can be harvested after 70 to 85 days. The ripening process of a tomato comes in various stages and tomatoes begin to ripen from the bottom or “blossom end.” It is important to check tomatoes on a daily basis for picking.

Depending on the variety that is planted, it is useful to know when to pick them. Not all tomatoes have to be red for them to be ripe and some varieties are mature enough to be picked when they are green because they will continue to ripen. Tomatoes come in different varieties including red, yellow and green.

One way of knowing how to tell when to pick your tomatoes is by looking at the bottom of a tomato because that is where it begins to ripen. Some tomatoes are ripe even before they reach their full color. When the skin of a tomato appears to be smooth and waxy and the texture is soft but durable, it is time to pick it off the vine.

A tomato is ready to be harvested when it has an even color, is glossy and is neither too soft nor too firm. To pick tomatoes, either cut off the top of the plant or remove the individual fruits off the vine. Once the harvest continues, you can pick tomatoes a day or two before they are fully ripe so that they can continue to mature in the kitchen.

When summer begins to fade and temperatures drop, there may be some green tomatoes left on the vine. Mature green tomatoes can be picked to continue their ripening process even during the fall. Tomatoes with a blush of color on their blossom end can be picked, washed, air dried and wrapped individually in newspaper and placed in a box in a cool and dark place to continue ripening. Green tomatoes can be used for a number dishes.

Testing for Ripeness

For beginner gardeners who want to make sure a green tomato is ripe, it is helpful to cut the first few in half to train the eye. If the knife is able to cut the seeds, then the tomato is still immature. Green and yellow tomatoes that are ripe have a white to yellow colored star shape on the end where the fruit blossoms. The overall color of these ripe tomatoes is usually yellow or has an amber colored blush.

It is better to test for a ripe tomato by touching and it should be soft to the touch. When the green tomato has a blossomed end that is pink, it is at a good stage for picking and will further ripen without gassing. This stage of the tomato occurs within 24 hours of a mature green stage. These tomatoes are generally known as “vine-ripe,” and if they are left on the vine for another 24 hours, color will begin to appear.


Tomatoes that are fully ripened should be stored at room temperature for the best flavor. For longer lasting tomatoes, store them in the refrigerator but in the warmest part. Picking tomatoes when they have reached their peak for ripeness will provide you with flavorful and nutritious tomatoes.