Fun and interesting facts about tomatoes!
One reason we love the flavor of the tomato as much as we do, is their combined acidity and sweetness. During photosynthesis, glucose (sugar) plus citric and malic acids are produced by the leaves and stems. As the plant ripens, the level of glucose in the tomato rises making the tomato taste extra sweet!
Sometimes tomatoes are sweet and sometimes they’re not, why?
Tomatoes picked on a sunny day are sweeter than ones picked on a cloudy day. That’s because when it’s sunny, photosynthesis is in high gear and the glucose being produced in the leaves and stems is in ample supply to the fruit. When it’s cloudy the leaves and stems conserve their energy or glucose, releasing less to the fruit, to help get it through to the next sunny day when photosynthesis will resume. So, eating a tomato that’s been picked on a cloudy day will be less sweet than one that’s picked on a sunny day!
Why do homegrown tomatoes taste so much better than commercially grown tomatoes?
The flavor of commercially grown store-bought tomatoes is better today than in previous decades due to improved harvesting, grading, storing, packaging and shipping methods. But the best store-bought tomatoes are usually the most expensive because all conditions for yummy tomatoes must be just right. For example:
- Storage conditions: Storage temperature is critical to tastiness. Harvested mature green tomatoes taste best when stored between 13°C and 16°C (55F – 60F) and at 90 – 95% relative humidity. Once they start turning red, they should be kept at an optimum temperature of 20°C (70F or comfortable room temperature) for the best flavor.
- Time from harvest to market: The time-frame that tomatoes will last from harvest to market including shipping and storage for mature green tomatoes is 21 – 28 days, pink tomatoes have 7 – 14 days and red will last 2 – 4 days.
Mature green vs. too green
To be sure tomatoes ripen properly, they should not be harvested before they’re mature. Tomatoes are ‘climacteric’ — that means they will continue to ripen after they are picked. If picked when they are mature green, under the right storage conditions the tomato will continue to ripen to a product that looks and tastes almost identical to a vine ripened tomato.
To know when a green tomato is mature, it will be a lighter shade of green. When you slice through its center with a sharp knife; if the seeds and gel fill all the spaces (cavities) the tomato is mature and will ripen normally.
What to do if there’s risk of frost?
If your area is at risk of an early frost and you’ve got a bumper crop of tomatoes, harvest as many of the mature ones as possible; that will allow plant energy to be spent on the ones left on the vine. If there are new shoots, trim them back as well; there’s likely not enough time for them to grow to maturity and removing shoots will allow energy to go into the tomatoes that are nearly mature. You might also cover your plants with sheets, this will let the warmth rising from the garden soil shield them from the chilly night air.
Don’t put tomatoes in the fridge
After harvesting from your garden or bringing tomatoes home from the store, do not refrigerate! Keeping them in the fridge causes them to lose flavor and develop a mealy texture. The very best time to eat ripe red tomatoes is ASAP, let them wait on the counter top.