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Gardener warns of common mistake that may be causing annoying problems with your tomatoes: 'It stops getting any support from the plant'

"Here's why you might not want to wait."

"Here's why you might not want to wait."

Photo Credit: @meggrowsplants / TikTok

Homegrown tomatoes are a delicious addition to soups, salads, and sandwiches, but if you're harvesting them at the wrong time, you might not be getting the most out of your crop. One TikToker recently explained that plucking your tomatoes off the vine at the right time "can solve a lot of tomato-harvesting issues."

The scoop

Avid gardener Meg Grows Plants (@meggrowsplants) posted a video in August about a common gardening mistake. "Have you been patiently waiting for your tomatoes to ripen on the vine?" she asks. "Here's why you might not want to wait."

@meggrowsplants Heres why i try to pick my tomatoes at the "color break" stage instead of letting them ripen fully on the vine (although sometimes im too late lol). When a tomato hits that color break, it no longer grows. It no longer changes in flavor or nutrition. It stops getting any support from the plant. So, in an effort to avoid cracking, splitting, and pests or critters getting to your tomatoes vefore you do- its best to harvest them at that first blush of color! #gardentok #gardentips #gardening101 #gardenhacks #gardeningtiktok #gardeninspiration ♬ original sound - MegGrowsPlants

She then explains the perfect time to harvest tomatoes: what she called the "color break" or "first blush" stage. That's when the tomato is just beginning to show a hint of reddish or orange color. 

How it's helping

While some fruits benefit from ripening on the plant, tomatoes aren't one of them, Meg claims. "When a tomato hits that color break, it no longer grows," she explained in the video description. "It no longer changes in flavor or nutrition. It stops getting any support from the plant."

But once it starts to turn colors, it becomes vulnerable to certain kinds of damage. "The first issue being cracking," she explains. "If you're like me and you live somewhere where it's super rainy in the summer months, a lot of the times, tomatoes are really prone to cracking before they're fully ripe because the rain will swell them up and make them crack open."

She then shows an example of a tomato that she left on the vine for too long. It's not red yet, but the top is covered with scabbed-over cracks. While those cracks aren't dangerous, they are unappetizing — and the sooner you harvest the tomato, the more likely you are to avoid the problem.

"Another common issue is the birds and the pests getting to eat your tomatoes before you do," she continues. "Birds and pests are attracted to the bright colors and smells of a fully ripened tomato, just like we are." Harvesting the fruit while it's still partly green and letting it ripen indoors puts it out of the reach of these critters.

"Placing your tomatoes topside down in a sunny window sill will allow them to finish ripening beautifully," Meg says. "And in my opinion, tomatoes ripened this way taste the exact same as they would if they were ripened right on the vine."

What everyone's saying

Commenters love the tip and shared a few more for ripening tomatoes faster.

One wrote, "Fantastic tip for us newbies! Thank you!" 

"Does it need to be an area that gets direct sun?" asked another user. "Or would bright indirect light work?"

"Indirect is fine," replied a second commenter. "I currently have around 80 tomatoes ripening on my kitchen table."

"I also find putting them in a paper bag with a banana works well too," suggested a third user.

"Never had to do that, but I've heard that before!" Meg replied.

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