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What Time of Day Should You Pick Tomatoes?

Caring for your garden and looking at your plant flourishing over time can bring you great joy and satisfaction. However, if you are not much of a morning person, you might need to put in a little extra effort to pick your tomatoes at their juiciest!

What time of day should you pick tomatoes? The best time of the day to pick tomatoes is during the early morning, ideally before 9 am, before the dew evaporates. At nighttime, fruits transform starch into sugar and replenish essential moisture. By picking them before the sun dries them up, you can enjoy your tomatoes at their sweetest and crispiest.

Take a moment to make your peace with the fact that you have a few early mornings ahead of you. Then read on to find out some useful tips to make the best out of your crop’s produce!

Why Should I Pick Tomatoes in the Morning?

There is nothing worse than looking after your vegetables and fruit garden for months only to ruin everything by picking the produce too early or too late. Luckily, tomatoes give off clear signs that they are ready for your dinner table! However, don’t forget that they are at their best only for a handful of days after completing the ripening process and before cracking and spoiling. 

As your tomatoes are turning red, you should get ready to have an early start to pick them. Indeed, the best time to harvest your garden vegetables and herbs is when the sun is at its least intense. Ideally, you should head for your garden in the morning before 9 am or in the evening after 5 pm. 

While you might not have noticed it if you tend to buy only store-bought fruit, the time of the day at which you pick your vegetables can entirely change their taste and consistency. This curious difference is due to a series of chemical reactions happening within your fruits overnight. Here are the main benefits you can reap from an early morning harvest! 

Taste and consistency

If you are growing your tomatoes, the chances are that you are putting effort into it to add them to your home-cooking and recipes. In this case, picking them at their most flavorful is essential for the success of your dishes! The taste of a home-grown tomato can depend on many factors, among which:

  • Environment and climate
  • Watering
  • Growing conditions
  • Ripening stage
  • Variety

Yet, the time of the day at which you pick your fruit is another essential factor that contributes to changing its taste. Indeed, tomatoes go through a series of chemical reactions overnight that can genuinely make them taste differently. 

First off, tomato plants flourish during the hottest period of the year, and their fruits grow and ripen towards the end of summer. The ideal temperatures for their development should range between 20°C and 30°C. Being exposed to such high temperatures all day long, tomato plants lose the majority of their internal moisture during the daylight hours. However, at nighttime, they can retain the water and moisture, replenishing all the essential nutrients they need to thrive.

Moreover, many vegetables and fruits, among which tomatoes, use the lower nighttime temperatures to turn starch into sugar. These two factors translate into fruits that are at their sweetest and juiciest in the morning before the sun and heat get the chance to dry their moisture content.

Oppositely, if you pick tomatoes during the hottest hours of the day, the lack of moisture will turn them into flaccid, soft, and less flavorful fruits.

Longer shelf life

You might not know that your vegetables keep living after the harvest through a chemical reaction called respiration. The difference with your plants still in the ground is that these can still respire and photosynthesize.

The respiration process takes place differently in all animals and plants. While doing so, your vegetables will transform glucose into both carbon dioxide and water through the use of oxygen. This reaction is the method plants use to create the energy needed to perform functions, keep themselves alive, and delay spoiling. Once your tomatoes process all the glucose stored within them, they are unable to produce energy any longer and start to decay.

As we have seen, your tomatoes naturally turn their starch content into glucose overnight. So, if you harvest them in the morning, they will have in storage more abundant reserves of it. In turn, this feature allows them to stay alive for longer and delay spoiling.

Another significant benefit of picking them in the morning is that the respiration rate slows overnight in colder temperatures. The respiration rate of vegetables directly links with their shelf life. Indeed, the quickest a vegetable respires and consumes its glucose reserves, the fastest it will start to spoil. Tomatoes have a slower respiration rate overnight, and, when brought from the crop to the fridge, the temperature difference will be minimal. This easy trick allows them to maintain a low respiration rate and keep for longer.

Pick to eat them that day

As we are about to see, you can just as well pick vegetables after the sun has reached and passed its peak. However, doing so might prevent you from being able to enjoy your veggies on the same day as you picked them. After you harvest your tomatoes from the crop, they will start decreasing in flavor and consistency. 

Indeed, the flavor development of green tomatoes starts when it undergoes the “breakers” stage of its ripening process, but stops at picking time. While you might see your fruits changing color on your kitchen counter, the flavor of your tomato will only be slightly affected. Moreover, when placed in the refrigerator, tomatoes undergo genetic changes that might make them taste even blander.

Ultimately, a short trip to your garden early in the morning allows you to have the freshest and more flavorful tomatoes to eat on that day.

When Else Can I Pick Tomatoes?

If you really can’t make it out of bed that early, another viable option is to pick your tomatoes in the evening at or after 5 pm. At this time, the plants had time to partially replenish the moisture lost over the hottest hours of the day. For best results, you could also opt to water them one to two hours before you are planning to pick them.

While picking tomatoes in the evening guarantees you to enjoy at least some moisture and firmer consistency, you might not be able to consume them on that day. In this case, you should consider whether it might be worth it to wait until the morning after to make the best out of them.

In any case, you should avoid picking tomatoes at any time between 9 am and 5 pm. During this period, the sun dries all the essential nutrients and moisture that give these fruits their characteristic juicy and sweet flavor. 

Final Thoughts

While easy to grow and look after, many different factors contribute negatively and positively to the flavor notes of tomato. If you are looking at making the best out of them in the kitchen or your recipes, you should pick them in the early morning, before the dew evaporates. Indeed, tomatoes, similarly to other garden vegetables, undergo a series of chemical reactions that enhance their taste and consistency in the morning. 

Picking your tomatoes in the early evening or late afternoon is another viable option, but it might not yield as enjoyable results. Ultimately, you should avoid harvesting any vegetables or fruits during the hottest hours of the day.

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ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on April 27, 2020.

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