It goes without saying that vegetables should be harvested at their peak ripeness, but sometimes it’s not easy to determine exactly when that is.
One question I’m frequently asked is how to tell when a green variety of tomato is ripe? It’s pretty easy to tell when a red tomato is ripening — you can watch the fruit turn from a dark green to a pale blush, and finally to a deep red. But what about tomatoes that ripen to green? How can you tell when it’s time to harvest green-colored tomatoes?
There are a couple of ways to tell ripeness in green tomatoes. The first is to look at the color. Yes, it will be green, but most green cultivars will show some change in coloring as they begin to ripen. You may see a different shade of green with a tinge of red, yellow, or orange. Many green cultivars will show ripening by turning from a light green to an olive-green color. The cultivar ‘Green Zebra’ ripens from a pale green and white stripes to lime green with yellow striping.
You can also tell the fruit’s ripeness by feel. Immature fruits will be hard, but ripening fruit will yield to slight pressure — give it a gentle squeeze test. If it gives a little and has some coloring, it’s ripening.
Size is another factor, although that may be more difficult to determine with smaller, cherry-types. If the fruit is close to its mature size, yields to a little pressure (it’s not rock-hard), and has some coloring present, it’s ripening.
Finally, there is the sacrificial taste test – pick it and taste it! It should be flavorful and juicy, not bland and dry. When I first started growing green varieties, I had to do all these steps to figure out when green tomatoes were ripe!
Green varieties are one of my favorite types of tomatoes to grow. They truly add a pop of unexpected color to any tomato dish and their flavors range from sweet-tangy to citrus-like.
Here are a few green heirloom/open pollinated favorites to try in your garden:
Cherry types: Green Bumblebee, Lucky Tiger, or Green Grape. These are perfect for snacking and adding to salads. They really stand out when mixed with other jewel-colored cherry tomatoes.
Salad types: Green Zebra and Lime Green Salad are the perfect size for a salad or slicing. These varieties are beautiful and delicious in chunky salsa.
Beefsteak: Aunt Ruby’s German Green and Green Giant add a “wow-factor” to tomato tarts, burger patties, and BLT’s.