In the beautiful farms of Kenya, where tomatoes grow in abundance, figuring out when they’re just right to pick is like unlocking a tasty secret. Tomatoes are super important here, not just because they’re in so many Kenyan dishes, but also because they’re like the flavor heroes of the fields. In this blog post, we’re going to chat about how to tell when a tomato is perfectly ripe. It’s not just for farmers with big fields but also for folks who have a little tomato plant on their balcony. We’ll explore the colors and feelings that tell us, “Hey, I’m ready!” Come along as we stroll through the tomato farms of Kenya, discovering how to pick the juiciest, yummiest tomatoes, making every dish from the farm to the table extra special. 🍅✨

harvesting tomato

And no, this is not a metaphor for something.

In the do-it-yourself kitchen gardens, we see growers plucking plump red tomatoes off the vine.

Should you, a commercial tomato farmer, wait till full red ripeness too?

Absolutely not.

For this reason, 99 percent of buyers at farmgate are resellers. And, fully red tomato have a short shelf-life and bruise easily.

So, how do you tell that a tomato is ready for picking?

1.    Time

3-4 months after transplanting expect your tomatoes to begin ripening. If you have a consistent no-sweater weather, tomatoes begin ripening as early as the 75th day. If you have a consistent June/July weather for 4 consecutive months, your tomatoes will drag to the 100th day plus. True story. I have experienced both these weathers.

2.    Skin Colour

Tomatoes ripen from the bottom up. At maturity, the bottom starts to lighten from green to yellow to red. At the onset of the first yellowing, your tomato is ready for picking.

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Once it is picked, a tomato will ripen to a full red colour.

However, buyers have preferences.

The safest time to harvest a tomato is when it is ¾ yellow, with some red at the bottom. Most buyers accept that. It is called the blue-band colour.

Despite how attractive vine-ripened tomatoes are, it is not advisable to let them get to that stage for 3 reasons:

  • I wanted to say that unless you have buyers who are the final consumer – restaurants, schools or even households, you can wait for your tomatoes to completely ripen. However, thinking about it, when anyone is buying tomatoes in bulk, you want some of them to be a little green.
  • Pests. The longer your tomatoes stay on the vines, the higher the chances that they will fall to birds, mice and even snails. If your farm is unsecured, don’t be surprised when humans help themselves to the fruits of your hard labour.
  • Once picked, a tomato will ripen to a full red colour. However, if it stays on the vine, it continues to consume resources nutrients and water, which it doesn’t need. These are resources that could be used to fatten other immature fruits.

And no… taste-wise, you cannot tell that this tomato was harvest completely ripe and or at the blue-band colour.

How do You Tell that a Tomato is Ripe?

Bonus tip: How often should a farmer harvest their tomatoes?

Twice a week is perfect timing.

There is actually a theory that the more times you harvest your mature tomatoes, the more tomatoes you will have to harvest. See point 3 above.

That said, the tomato will get used to how you treat her. If you can only afford to harvest once a week, it gets used to that schedule.

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The worst thing you can do is do irregular harvesting. Twice this week, once the next. Even if you don’t have a ready market, it is your planning fault, not the tomatoes’. Take the ready fruits off the plant and store them.

I imagine leaving a tomato plant with overly ripe fruits is the same as leaving a lactating cow unmilked. Ah. The pain.

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