what color is your tomato? how to ripen them

usda tomato ripeness color chart
IS YOUR TOMATO FRUIT simply a stubborn Green (self-explanatory) or is it Breakers (a break in the color from green is starting to be evident), or are you already at Turning (10 to 30 percent red showing) or Pink (30-60) or Light Red (60-90) or Red (more than 90 percent)? Are they hanging on tight, safe and sound, all the way to vine-ripened, or are hungry (devious?) animals playing havoc, or crazy weather threatening the crop? It’s a good time for a reminder on how to ripen a tomato–because there’s more than one way (none of which includes letting my local chipmunks pick them first). It’s all in the refresher course.

  1. Judi says:

    A couple of storms have pitched some tomatoes to the ground early, I put them in a basket in the dark corner of the kitchen and they rippen just fine, Most are mostly red anyway but coulda used a few more days.. Critters are not a problem since I surrounded my garden with cattle fencing, They find it shocking (oh my) that they cannot get into the garden. Without it The ground hog (fondly names Phil and Philameana) eat all the tomatoes green, They did get all the aspargus this year too. I catch them “green” handed and they just walk away, Don’t want to hurt them but we tried traps and they laughed at them….so I am not sure what to do about the asparagus. Might have to buy it at the farmers markets

  2. Kathy says:

    I live in a house onthe water on Prudence Island, Rhode Island and have more tomatoes and green beans than I can handle. No critters because I have dogs who patrol.They even patrol the dock to keep the gulls off.Get a dog!

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Kathy. My cat is definitely not doing the trick these days, even if he is as large as a dog. :) Too many wild things wanting to pick the goodies early. My kitchen is full of almost-red tomatoes, because I refuse to let them grab (or bite into) them just as they get ripe!

  3. BeBe says:

    Enjoyed my earliest ever tomatoe about a week ago – even for Early Girls! There is not really one good spot for full sun in my yard / garden, so I resorted to containers a few years ago, turning the pots every now and then. Success . The first BLT of the season is the BEST! Picked more yesterday. The cherrys never make it to the kitchen … straight to my mouth! Tra La.

  4. Margaret Andrews says:

    Last night I was so pleased to see six tomatoes ready for picking – lovely deep red, fleshy, and looking like they were ready to jump into my first toasted tomatoe sandwich of the season. This morning I went to pick my lunchtime treat and was horrified to see that every one of them had been eaten in half overnight. ugh. It’s PB+J for me today.

  5. bethalina says:

    Is there a chart for purple tomatoes? ;)
    Or ones that stay green???

    @ Kathy: thinking of borrowing someone’s dog! Voles, moles and a groundhog here. and rabbits, can’t forget the rabbits.

    1. Margaret says:

      You are very funny, Bethalina. I will tell the USDA we need more charts! :) My cat eats a vole a day all season long, which is wonderful — but scary to think how many of them there are out there wanting to wreck the place. I am losing my second battle with woodchucks this season at the moment, but tomorrow we step it up from 3 traps to 5 or 6 and maybe a sub-machine gun and aerial artillery. (Kidding on the latter, but getting several more traps in the morning as this is one wandering animal who is very shy of traps and just relocates to another part of the garden if I put one near where he’s been eating.)

  6. ann says:

    In NW CT I have had the best cherry tomatoes ever — so sweet to just eat them off the fine in their containers by the garage — the only place with enough sun for them — has been a great summer — enough heat, enough rain, just wonderful after the experience two years ago when all the tomatoes rotted in the rain.

  7. Jayne says:

    My tomatoes started last week – the Black Krim so lush! The Costaluco a beautiful orangey yellow and Early girl producing nicely – the big beefs coming along, but the cherries have been hijacked by the chipmunks – nasty buggers!
    Margaret have you been stung? I went out without my glasses or gloves on – I must have been in a midsummer stupor! I didnt see the flurry around their entrance to their hive in the hillside, and I was nailed three times! Oh, it does make you want to cry like a baby! Tonight I am still feeling the pain despite Benadryl and Advil. What do you do for your stings?

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Jayne. Within the first half-minute I think you are supposed to scratch (NOT squeeze) the bite to get the stinger out to minimize the venom release. You can use your nail (but it might be dirty) or they say the corner of a credit card or something like that. Then I apply ice cubes. Not a perfect remedy, but helps a bit. If I get the stinger out fast it’s less pain/itching afterward. What I hate most is the itching phase the second day etc. Feel better!

  8. ann says:

    Have tried many things for tomatoes and they respond to whatever is trendy at the moment. This year, got 3 unmarked plants and have had vine ripe tomatoes for over a week now. I am just letting them sprawl on the ground but did throw some dry lawn clipppings under the vines to keep them off the ground. Oh yes, we did fry some of the green ones, too. Next year, may try another method.

  9. Matt says:

    I really like this poster. I feel like I should print it out, cut it along the tri-folds, frame it in three picture frames, and then hang them side-by-side on a wall in the kitchen.

  10. Beth Ann says:

    Hi Margaret! Moving to the country 5 years ago I thought it would be fun to have a garden…. I’ve tried my hand at growing tomatoes & the outcome was tragic! I hate the tomato worms & anything else that like to snack on the fruit! Fortunately we have a Farmer’s Market every Saturday on the square where you can get all the summer veggies you could want! However, the other day my husband & I were driving along a country road & stopped at an Amish house where they were selling home-grown tomatoes,zucchini & sweet corn. That night we made BLT’s & the tomatoes were delicious. We also had zucchini that I fried in a skillet with a bit of oil & butter until slightly brown, place a small slice of tomato on top & then sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese. YUM!
    Well, that’s my “summer story” hope you enjoyed it!!

  11. fern says:

    Margaret, if you know where the burrow is, just pour some used kitty litter down the hold and around the entrance. Worked like magic for me.

  12. shira says:

    You learn something new everyday… I’ve never heard of root pruning to hasten ripening. Im thinking of giving it a try now, since the really cool temps right now in CT (for august!) are making me a little worried about some certain pathogens that should not be named!

  13. Cindy says:

    Hello! I am down in Texas where we are in a horrible drought right now. However, even in years when we don’t have the lack of rain, I usually grow small varieties of tomatoes such as Sweet 100, Cherry, Roma and Patio. I have been lucky enough to harvest a few Sweet 100 this year as well as one lonely Roma. However I have a few yet on the vine.

    For me, window sill ripening has always worked just fine. Perhaps it is because my kitchen window faces east and I don’t get too much of the hot, hot sun – but just enough? Nothing better than a warm tomato, though –

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Cindy. Yes, I use the windowsill (or always did) a lot, too, but not a super-sunny one. WIth the tropical storm coming I just picked anything that was even a little reddish and the windowsill is full, and then some!

  14. JJ says:

    Our CSA was kind enough to let members loose in the tomato patch this weekend, to gather as much as we wanted before they clear the plants. I now have a sink-full of to-be-sorted tomatoes in various shades of pink and green –the few that are almost completely ripe will stay on the kitchen counter, but most will be spending a little time in newspaper wrapping. The lesson learned from past tomato ripening is to check them every few days — forgetting them for too long can mean a soggy, moldy mess. Hoping to get a few more quarts of sauce tucked into the freezer before the end of another tomato season…

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