This post was most recently updated on March 2nd, 2020
This Summer I am growing a range of Heirloom Tomato varieties. The problem is all the different types of tomatoes are different colors. How do I know when heritage tomatoes are ripe and ready to harvest? When can I pick my heirloom tomatoes?
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It may seem obvious – tomatoes are ready to pick when they are evenly a lush red color. But what if, like me, you are waiting for a heirloom tomato that is a pink variety to go red before harvesting them?
Each variety of heirloom tomatoes look different when they are ripe. Some old-fashioned tomatoes are yellow, some orange, some red, some pink, some have stripes and some even look almost black. Some ripe heirloom tomatoes are even still green!!
Funny story – this year for the first time ever I am growing heritage oxhearts. A lovely large paste tomato (for making sauce and bottling). It is also pink when ripe – often with a blush of green still on the top.
So I was waiting and waiting for my very first heritage tomato in my brand new tunnel house to ripen to a lovely red. A full week later and it still looked the same pale pink.
Then it fell off the vine.
I picked it up off the dirt and it was super soft and I felt super silly. I went inside and promptly Googled oxheart, and came up with a pink image. ooops.
When can I pick my heirloom tomatoes?
So my tips for knowing if a heritage tomato variety is ripe starts with:
Know your Heritage Tomatoes
I made the silly mistake of not well labeling my seedlings – I tried, but by the time they became necessary, I could no longer read them! Next time I will make ones like these that my friend Staci makes.
Know what variety of tomatoes you are growing AND what they should look like when they are ripe. Keep a garden diary and or keep your plant tags or seed packets. Know what color you are aiming for.
Hold your Tomato
When heritage tomatoes are ripe it feels slightly heavier than an unripe tomato of the same size. And while I don’t recommend poking and squishing your beautiful heirloom tomatoes to see if they are ripe, a light squeeze should be enough to see if the fruit is ripened and ready to pick.
Give it a Sniff
Modern humans have forgotten how to use our noses. Our noses know when a cake, bread or cookies are cooked, our noses know when food is off and our noses know when tomatoes and other fruit is ripe. Trust your nose, it knows (see what I did there?).
Once you have a harvest of ripe heirloom tomatoes make some of my delicious, kid friendly but much healthier than store-bought Tomato Ketchup or some canned Tomato Salsa to enjoy over the Winter months.
How do you know when your Heritage tomatoes are ripe?