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What you need:
  • Pruning knife
  • Hand pruners
  • Cardboard box
  • Newspaper
Tomatoes are warm weather crops. Once the temperature has dropped to an average of 50F., tomatoes must be harvested or they won't ripen properly. Harvest your tomatoes and let them ripen indoors so they don't spoil.
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First, determine if your tomatoes are ready to be harvested. While tomatoes don't need to be red (ripe) to be harvested, they do need to be mature. A slight blush of color is usually a good sign of maturity.
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If you aren't sure which tomatoes are mature, put a sample under the knife. Select a tomato and cut it in half with a sharp knife. Look at the seeds. If they have a coating of jelly around them, the tomato is mature. Use the blush on that tomato as a guide to which others to harvest. Leave immature ones on the vine and check them weekly.
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Once you have determined which tomatoes are ready to be harvested, remove them from the plant. Inspect each tomato for blemishes or bruising. Discard any that show damage, as they are likely to rot or use immediately.
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Wrap tomatoes individually in newspaper and arrange them in a single layer in a cardboard box. Place the box in a room with a stable temperature of 65-75F. The tomatoes should ripen quickly in these conditions. If you don't want them to ripen all at once, put the box in a cooler location (but no cooler than 55F) and bring out a few at a time to ripen in the warmer temperatures.
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Check the tomatoes every few days to see how ripe they are. When they are evenly red, they are ready to be used.
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If you're pressed for time, uproot the entire plant and hang it upside down in a warm (65-75F.) room. Remove the tomatoes as they ripen. Keep in mind that tomatoes lose acidity when they are harvested from dead vines and may spoil if canned. Lemon juice can be added to supplement the acidity of the tomatoes.