Harvesting and storing tomatoes is a key part of the growing process. You’ve been looking forward to this moment for months, so it’s important you pick them at the right time and know how to store them properly. Whether it’s a Cherry, Salad or Beefsteak variety, you’ll want to enjoy them at their best!
One of life’s joys is eating a sun-warmed tomato fresh from the vine, but this isn’t always practical. Once a tomato has reached peak ripeness, it’s all downhill! Turn your back for a few hours and the skin has split – or worse yet, a squirrel has got there first. Luckily, tomatoes are fine to be harvested when they’re not completely ripe. This is called the ‘breaker’ stage, when tomatoes are around half green and half red. Pick individually if they’re a larger variety, or snip the whole stem if they’re smaller.
They can continue their ripening process indoors on a sunny windowsill. Don’t worry, this won’t affect their flavour or nutritional value. You can slow down the ripening process by storing them at 12 degrees C. They will be held in stasis, neither ripening nor becoming damaged by cold. If you want to speed the ripening process up, the optimum temperature is 30 degrees (a hot summer’s day).
Once ripe, and if you’re planning to use them within the next couple of days, keep them in a cool, dry place. The sooner they’re used, the better they’ll taste. However, if you’d like to keep your tomatoes fresher for longer, the fridge is always your best bet – although some people say this alters the flavour.
Did you know, you can also freeze tomatoes whole? If you’ve had a bumper crop, this is the best way to prevent any going to waste. These will keep for around 6 months and will only take an hour to defrost at room temperature. With a fresh, homegrown batch at your disposal, tinned tomatoes could soon be a thing of the past. Simply add to soups and curries for that authentic touch. Or if you’re really prepared, create your own tomato sauce with ripe tomatoes and freeze for a rainy day when you need to decorate a pizza base or want an easy pasta dish. Find our tomato recipes here.