Harvesting tomatoes: tips at the right time


If you are growing tomatoes for the first time, you may still be a little unsure about the harvest. We have summarized everything you need to know for this.

© pilipphoto / stock.adobe.com

It is said that tomatoes should only be harvested when they are red. However, the harvest also depends on other factors, as our tips and advice below show.

What criteria does the tomato harvest depend on?

The optimal time for the tomato harvest depends primarily on the variety. Since there are no longer just red tomatoes nowadays, but also green, yellow and tabby varieties, the principle that one should only harvest them when they are red is outdated.

Especially when a tomato variety grows in your own garden for the first time, a healthy level of intuition and good observation skills are required to find out when the ideal time to harvest has come.

You can orient yourself on the following key points:

  • Red tomatoes should be completely colored.
  • For yellow, green, orange and dark tomatoes, the ripe fruit yields slightly when the peel is pressed lightly.
  • Ripe fruit can be easily removed at the predetermined breaking point on top. With green specimens in particular, this is the most common test to identify ripe fruit.

As far as the right time in the calendar is concerned, no clear statement can be made here, since this also depends on the particular variety. There are some that already bear fruit ready for harvest in July. Others, however, are not ready until August or even September.

In addition to the variety, the degree of sunshine is also decisive. Tomato plants are among the sun worshipers. The more sun they get, the better and faster they mature.

Does the time of day and crop order matter?

The time of day determines the aroma of the tomatoes. - © encierro / stock.adobe.com Not only the color of the fruit provides a good orientation for the harvest, but also the time of day and the order in which the fruit is removed from the plant.

If you harvest them in the morning, for example, they have a crisp and fresh texture. The taste is extremely mild at this time of day. On the evening of the same day, on the other hand, the tomatoes taste highly aromatic and have a sweetish effect, especially if they have been exposed to the sun all day. - Which time of day you choose is more a matter of taste.

As far as the order of the fruit harvest is concerned, amateur gardeners first take the tomatoes, which are located close to the stem. They are usually ripe first. From there you work your way outwards during the harvest.

Why not harvest earlier?

As long as tomatoes are still green, they contain a toxic alkaloid called solanine. This gradually disappears within the tomato as it ripens. Therefore, under no circumstances should they be harvested without having already assumed their typical color.

Harvest tomatoes and affect shelf life

If the stem remains on the tomato during harvesting, it will last longer. - © Iuliia Metkalova / stock.adobe.com A simple trick allows the tomatoes to last longer. When harvesting, simply leave part of the stem on the fruit. This should only be removed when the tomatoes are processed. This also ensures that there is no solanine left in the tomato, as this substance migrates into the stems as it ripens.

By the way: Storage in the fridge is not recommended for tomatoes, as they lose their aroma in this way. You can find information on the correct storage in our article "Tomato storage - 8 clever tips".

Harvest unripe tomatoes before frost

The last tomatoes of the season are best harvested before the first frost. It is irrelevant whether these are still green or not. Because they can ripen very well under certain conditions.

The following tricks can be used for this:

The tomatoes are placed in a bowl together with a fully ripe banana. Bananas separate out ethylene gas at this stage, which promotes the ripening process. An apple can also be used as an alternative to the banana.

Green tomatoes also ripen if you wrap them in newspaper and put them in a warm place. It is important that the individual tomatoes do not touch each other. A few days later, they take on the color typical of the variety and are edible.

A windowsill illuminated by the sun can also be useful for ripening tomatoes.