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Old June 1, 2010   #1
Qweniden
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Default Tomato Ripening

I have a few question if I may be indulged:
  1. How does one know when a tomato is ripe on a vine?
  2. How long does a cherry tomato take to ripen once it shows up on a plant?
  3. How long does a normal sized tomato take to ripen once it shows up on a plant?
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Old June 2, 2010   #2
feldon30
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1. A blind man can pick a perfectly ripe tomato. The bottom of the tomato yields to gentle pressure with your thumb. Some heirloom varieties do not have the uniform ripening gene and as a result, even when completely ripe will have green shoulders on top. So judge by the bottom!

2/3. This depends on the variety, but there is a great pictoral timeline on TomatoSite.com. The site used to be TomatoEnthusiast.org but they let that name expire and never updated any links.

http://www.tomatosite.com/index.php?...Truss_Timeline
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Old June 2, 2010   #3
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Enjoyed the pictorial! Have noticed that many here advocate picking tomatoes at the first flush of color. However, my whole reason for growing heirlooms and tomatoes in general has been to get the maximum flavor possible. Am I wrong in thinking that a few extra days on the vine to allow for complete reddening and ripening will yield more flavor. I believe I read somewhere that somewhere along the line of transitioning into ripeness, the tomatoes will intially be more tart, then sweeter and, left too long, turn to a mushy consistency instead of the firmness I prefer. Seems that picking at first blush would not allow the sugars and acids to develop and result in something more like the supermarket style, bland tomatoes. Right or wrong?
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Old June 2, 2010   #4
Qweniden
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thanks!

So in general it looks like fruit stay green a long while and then color at the end
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Old June 2, 2010   #5
Qweniden
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mensplace View Post
Enjoyed the pictorial! Have noticed that many here advocate picking tomatoes at the first flush of color. However, my whole reason for growing heirlooms and tomatoes in general has been to get the maximum flavor possible. Am I wrong in thinking that a few extra days on the vine to allow for complete reddening and ripening will yield more flavor. I believe I read somewhere that somewhere along the line of transitioning into ripeness, the tomatoes will intially be more tart, then sweeter and, left too long, turn to a mushy consistency instead of the firmness I prefer. Seems that picking at first blush would not allow the sugars and acids to develop and result in something more like the supermarket style, bland tomatoes. Right or wrong?
Fruits in general continue to ripen once off the plant. The question is does plant ripening taste better? I dont know the answer
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Old June 3, 2010   #6
dice
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One key question is when the abscission layer in the stem
above the ripening fruit forms. According to the document
below, the fruit is usually fully sealed off from the flow
of nutrients by first blush:

http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/sty/200...toes071805.htm
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Old June 3, 2010   #7
feldon30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mensplace View Post
Have noticed that many here advocate picking tomatoes at the first flush of color. However, my whole reason for growing heirlooms and tomatoes in general has been to get the maximum flavor possible. Am I wrong in thinking that a few extra days on the vine to allow for complete reddening and ripening will yield more flavor.
We have had numerous reports of people leaving tomatoes on the vine until fully ripe, and reporting no noticeable improvement in flavor over ones that were picked after first blush. I have experienced the same when I have discovered ripe tomatoes which were obscured by foliage. They tasted similar to ones picked at first blush. And I am extremely picky about flavor. I grow for no other reason.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mensplace View Post
Seems that picking at first blush would not allow the sugars and acids to develop and result in something more like the supermarket style, bland tomatoes. Right or wrong?
I consider vine-ripening to be a sort of marketing myth.


The biggest causes of poor flavor in grocery store tomatoes are:
  • Varieties selected for productivity, early harvest, uniform size and shape, and disease resistance/tolerance.
  • They are grown in nearly sterile soil and fed chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • They are picked completely green (1st breaker stage), and shipped off to an ethylene gas chamber to artificially ripen.
  • They are shipped thousands of miles in refrigerated trucks.
  • They are then refrigerated again at the grocery store until they are put out for sale.
All of these steps conspire to produce a completely flavorless tomato.

In S.E. Texas, stink bugs, leaf-footed bugs, squirrels, mockingbirds, and unexpected afternoon rainstorms make leaving tomatoes on the vine until fully ripe a dicey proposition.


P.S. Out of curiosity, I took one of my best homegrown heirloom tomatoes and refrigerated it for 24 hours and the loss of flavor was shocking. It was almost as bad as a grocery store tomato.
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Old June 3, 2010   #8
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My findings mirror Feldon's. Once a tomato is chilled, the flavor is GONE! I also have lots of those pesky mockingbirds.
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Old June 3, 2010   #9
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This thread needs pics.


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Old June 3, 2010   #10
hornstrider
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Pic's are a Good Idea.......I pick at first blush, and let ripen on the kitchen counter. Last night I picked everything that blushed. We had a big thunderstorm blow through last night. I did not want to deal with the splits.
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Old June 3, 2010   #11
kath
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Hornstrider,
Love your pics! Gorgeous tomatoes...I can't wait! Like your root storage system, and am anxious to be able to dig some new potatoes; hope they're even half as nice as yours.
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Old June 3, 2010   #12
bughunter99
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My palate cannot tell the difference between vine ripened and counter ripened tomatoes. I do notice though that pests (two legged, four and six legged varieties) leave my tomatoes alone until they are red, then they attack.

I pick at first blush. Less cracked, holey and missing tomatoes that way.
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Old June 3, 2010   #13
Aphid
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I also pick when they first turn color, never could tell a difference in flavor intensity.
I firmly believe "vine ripened tomatoes" is a buzz phrase that sells more product to the average non-gardening consumer.
even the tomatoes sold in stores with the vine attached are picked while still green.
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Old June 3, 2010   #14
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I generally pick at the "pink stage" for convenience sake, and based articles like the KSU link above thought that flavor would not be affected by ripening off the vine, but I ran across this study that show there is a flavor difference between picking at the table ripe stage and picking earlier.

http://postharvest.ucdavis.edu/datas...es/234-526.pdf


So I'll probably keep on picking most fruits at the pink stage for cooking, but leave a couple on the plant to fully ripen for fresh eating although I have never found the flavor of the room ripened fruit to be sub standard.


If the fruit is truly cut of from the plant nutrients by the time color develops, I wonder if it is the temperature (higher or fluctuating) outdoors that cause more sugar etc to form when a fruit is left on the plant. In the study the fruits were room ripened at 20C (68F), while outside temps here would be more like 30C (85F). It is well documented that cooler storage temps affect flavor, so why wouldn't higher temps during ripening also affect flavor?
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Old June 4, 2010   #15
hornstrider
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Kath.......Thank you for the kind words........My root storage system is our laundry room. I must admit it has been a very productive year this year.........but I am afraid it is all coming to an end. The heat is sucking the life out of my maters......
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