Determining a ripe tomato might seem fairly obvious to most vegetable gardeners, right? A tomato is ripe once it turns (or begins turning) red. But what if it's an heirloom variety that is green when ripe? Or yellow? Or pink? Or orange?

How can you determine it is ripe for the picking?

Let's take a few minutes and talk about how to determine when a tomato is ripe and ready to be harvested. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your tomatoes are ready to be harvested:

Green Tomato

  • Always check the plant tag or seed packet - I always keep any plant tags or seed packets of vegetables I have planted. These come in handy for future reference during the growing season. There should be information there on what hue or color the tomato will be when it's ready to pick. This is very important to know - if you pick a tomato when it is bright red, but it is supposed to be a pinkish hue when ripe, the tomato might not be as flavorful. You don't want the tomato to become over-ripe either.
  • Check the weight of the tomato - Check the weight of the tomato to see if it seems heavier than it should. No, I'm not saying your tomato should go on a diet. A ripe tomato always feels like it's heavier than an unripe one. If you are unsure about this, try holding a ripe tomato in one hand and an unripe in the other (with both being about the same size). The ripe one should feel heavier.

    Red and Green Tomatoes

  • Check with your nose, because your nose will know - Get as close as possible to the tomato in question, and give it a good sniff. A ripe tomato will have a garden fresh aroma that is quite different than an unripe tomato. Go ahead - give it a try. I'm not making this stuff up, I promise!
  • Give the tomato a squeeze - Give the tomato a gentle, light squeeze. A ripe tomato should feel fairly soft (but not mushy) when squeezed. An unripe tomato will most likely be hard as a baseball.

I hope this helps clear up some confusion on whether your fast-approaching tomatoes are ready or not. I would love to hear some of your tomato checking methods, or any pictures you may have of tomatoes that you have picked so far this year. Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Grow Awesome Tomatoes