Tomatoes are Ripe

Waiting for the first garden-ripened tomatoes for sandwiches is worth the anticipation! Twice this week! Plenty of bacon, lettuce, mayo, and a tomato slice that covers the bread, and extra napkins for the juice, fit the meal.

Full-size tomatoes are the last to ripen fruits or vegetables in this garden. They are a versatile staple with ways to prepare them fresh and in recipes. They are an end-of-season reward for the work to maintain the garden plants. Sometimes tomatoes ripen just after the weeds are finally under control, but maybe not this year.

Figuring out if a tomato is ripe is a product of having lots of colors of tomatoes available to plant. Heirlooms and hybrids are selected to mature to shades of red, red/green, purple, orange, or yellow. It’s not uncommon to add a new kind of tomato plant and be unsure of the appearance of “ripe.”

 One approach is to look for the most pronounced color tomato on the plant and check it for slight softening against other firm tomatoes on the plant. Suppose the tomato seems firm in hand, no problem. Once harvested, tomatoes continue to ripen in the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter until eaten. 

While the care of tomato plants can be a challenge, this gardener tries to avoid pests and diseases by selecting resistant varieties. Once planted, remove yellow, discolored, or misshaped leaves as part of sanitation. That way, as the plant grows, diseases stay minimal and finding remedies is not needed. Plants are rotated within the garden space each year. Mulch helps conserve moisture and blocks soil splash on leaves that may lead to infection. More garden care information:  www.extension.sdstate.edu

After growing tomatoes, it is rewarding to find lots of uses in recipes as well as for pizzas. Chopped tomatoes and other garden produce can be added to a jar of commercial spaghetti sauce to enhance its flavor. Consider a summer garden soup of produce still available, along with grocer supplements.

Today is moderate after a hot, dry, windy week. The .20 rain that fell this morning refreshed the air and reminded us to add supplemental water for the tomatoes that continue to ripen. We hope you will enjoy the summer bounty that includes ripe tomatoes!

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