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By Felder Rushing

I I just discovered something about tomatoes that a lot of people already knew, which pissed off the smug expert on my part.

Unlike a dog, who only admits to misbehaving after being dragged from under the bed, I’m the type of gardening expert who quickly adapts recommendations based on solid, research-based new information. Even when it contradicts something I’ve been flatly wrong about for decades.

Turns out I was backward on the best time to pick tomatoes. So here it is with the egg wiped off my face.

I already knew the difference between “climacteric” and “anti-climacteric” fruit, which indicates whether or not they continue to ripen or ripen after being harvested.

Non-climacteric fruits are as ripe or mature as they will ever be the moment you pick them. Strawberries, blackberries, squash, melons, eggplant, pepper and citrus are just what come to mind; after harvest, they simply begin to decompose. On the other hand, climacteric fruits, including bananas, figs, plums, peaches, avocados and tomatoes, emit a lot of natural ethylene as the fruit ripens, even after harvest, causing them to helps them continue to ripen and develop their color, flavor and flavor. aroma.

For this reason, tomatoes, bananas and avocados can be picked a bit on the green side, when they are still firm enough to ship without bruising, and then exposed to ethylene gas to hasten their ripening. Grocery store suppliers do it all the time.

The reasons why many store-bought tomatoes don’t taste like the home-grown tomatoes of our youth are partly based on variety (most commercial varieties were bred for uniformity and the ability to be shipped long distances and stored long, not for flavor), and partly on whether they were picked too early, before they had a chance to fully develop maximum sugars and of acids. And partly because our tastes change with age; as a psychologist with the Mississippi Gardening FaceBook group put it, “Memories of what they used to taste may have changed – perception and memory may be very wobbly.”

This brings me to where I have been wrong for decades. I used to stress that once picked from the vine, tomatoes don’t continue to ripen and get tastier, they only get sweeter and more colorful. It is best to leave them on the vine until fully ripe. This turns out to be wrong, from a horticultural, physiological and nutritional point of view.

The truth is, once the tomatoes start showing a fair amount of pink color on that little “star” flare on the bottom, they contain all of the natural sugars and nutrients.

they will never get. Once this watery gel around the seeds begins to form and the fruits start to get mushy, they are overripe and begin to decay rapidly.

My ego is screaming at me to argue with this. But after digging into the research and talking with Gary Bachman (MSU Home Garden Specialist), I’m convinced. Modification of my recommendation.

So…unless you just like soggy sandwiches or eat tomatoes over the sink with juices running down your chin, pick the tomatoes at the early or mid-pink stage and store them in a cool place indoors (out of direct sunlight, not in the fridge). ), stem down to retain moisture. They’ll color up to red, yellow, purple, stripes, or whatever they’re supposed to be, and be as tasty and nutritious as “vine-ripened” fruit, with less risk of sunscald. , splitting of fruit, damage caused by bugs, birds, squirrels , and fungal decay. And last longer. And make the vines produce more.

Recommendations must adapt to new reliable information; minds and actions can too. Live and learn, huh?