3 Secrets to Harvesting the Best-Tasting Tomatoes
One of the most exciting parts of growing your own tomatoes is finally getting to taste the fruits of your labor. After spending the spring and summer planting, weeding, and tending to your plants, there are a few more things you can do to maximize that delicious sun-ripened flavor when you take your first bite. For starters, whenever you head out to harvest, you'll want to make sure you're picking at peak ripeness and then storing them properly. Plus, one surprising trick involves using salt on the plants themselves (it's also tasty on the fruits). These simple actions will help guarantee the best summer flavor from your fresh tomatoes for all of your summer salads and sandwiches.
1. Use a Sea Salt Fertilizer
You might’ve heard before that salt can hurt plants, which is why you need to be careful applying it to sidewalks in winter to melt ice because it can kill whatever is growing nearby. It’s true that a lot of salt can be bad for plants, but several studies and taste-tests have shown that tomatoes grown with salty, brackish water end up tasting better. You don’t have to live near the ocean to try it for yourself; SEA-90 ($50, Walmart) is an organic fertilizer with sea salt that you can try adding to your plants. Just be sure to follow the directions for using it so you don’t end up with a harmful amount of salt in your soil; on the packaging, it recommends diluting 1 teaspoon of salt fertilizer with a gallon of water.
2. Pick Tomatoes at the Perfect Time
Your tomatoes might end up over-ripening if you just rely on just your eyes to know when to harvest. While it is important to watch their color (you want them to reach a deep red or orange, depending on the variety you’re growing), for the best flavor, you'll also need your sense of touch. Before picking, press lightly on the fruit. Soft tomatoes are too ripe already. Instead, pick fruit that feels slightly tender under your fingertips; if it’s still hard, it needs more time to develop. Ripe tomatoes should also easily come off the plant with a gentle tug, so if you have to really pull to pick them, they aren't ready yet.
3. Don’t Eat Them Right Away
It’s tempting to slice into your freshly harvested tomatoes as soon as you bring them inside, but you’ll end up with better-tasting produce if you can be patient for a day or two. After picking, let your tomatoes ripen a little more in a dark space. They don’t need any extra light, so you can park them in a cabinet or your pantry at room temperature for one or two days to let their flavor develop even more. Just make sure your storage spot isn’t too cool (and never store tomatoes in the fridge), because temperatures below 55°F will damage the fruit and diminish its flavor.