After months of tending to your plants, harvesting a fresh tomato is a welcome reward. Hard work pays off with delicious, sweet and tart cherry tomatoes. However, timing is important!
In this article, I’ll discuss when to pick cherry tomatoes from the plant. There are several important factors to consider, from the color of the tomato to the weather forecast. After reading, you should feel 100% confident in when to harvest your fresh tomatoes!
When to Pick Cherry Tomatoes
There are a few main signals that your cherry tomatoes are ready for harvest. Depending on your climate, it may take more or less time for tomatoes to mature, so use these signs to know when:
Simply put, cherry tomatoes are ready for harvest when they change color from green. Once colors change, pick them promptly or you could run the risk of your tomatoes splitting or being eaten by wild animals.
- Colors change from green to red
- Fruits are easy to pick
- Time from transplanting
Since cherry tomatoes come in a variety of shapes and colors, you will have to determine what color to look for. We have grown yellow cherry tomatoes, orange, red and even striped!
We recommend picking cherry tomatoes a few days after the color begins to change. You can wait longer for a deeper color change, however the risk of splitting increases, especially if you are expecting heavy rain.
In addition to color changes, ripe tomatoes will be easier to remove from the vine. Many veggies become easier to harvest when they are ripe, and cherry tomatoes are no different. Gently roll the tomato to the side to see if it easily pops off the plant.
In addition to a distinct change in color, I recommend keeping track of the time. How long has your cherry tomato plant been alive? Most tomato seed packets will indicate how long the variety typically takes to produce ripe fruits from transplanting.
For example, many tomato varieties are ready for harvest after about 75 days. This is the number of days from transplanting outdoors, not from when the seeds were planted.
If your plants have been outdoors for the expected time to harvest, then you should begin expecting ripe tomatoes!
How to Harvest Cherry Tomatoes
This may seem obvious, but you do have a couple of options for how to remove the ripe cherry tomatoes. You can pick fruits individually, or try to harvest a full vine.
Some tomato varieties will not produce in clusters, but cherry tomatoes often do. If you want to impress your friends or family, wait for a cluster to ripen fully and then snip it away from the plant near the stem.
Otherwise, simply pick ripe cherry tomatoes as they appear on the plant. Try to make a routine of checking for ready tomatoes to encourage the plant to continue producing through until early fall.
One of the most common problems that tomato growers have is cracking or splitting. This issue happens when the plants take in too much water, causing the tomatoes to swell quicker than the skin can form.
As a result, skin cracks, often leading to rot or mold in the exposed flesh. Read more about tomatoes splitting here.
To avoid cracking, water your cherry tomato plants evenly throughout the season. Avoid long periods of drought followed by dousing with water.
Tip: If you are expecting heavy rain on your tomato plants, inspect them a day early for any nearly ripened fruits. Harvest these tomatoes before the rain or before watering.
Can I Pick Cherry Tomatoes When they are Green?
Green tomatoes are considered underripe. They lack sugars and taste vastly different from ripe tomatoes.
Simply put, cherry tomatoes can be picked when they are green, but the flavor will not be ideal. Wait at least until the tomatoes begin to change color before harvesting from the plant.
Some people like the taste of fried green tomatoes, but I am not a fan. Green cherry tomatoes taste tart and acidic, and have an extremely firm texture. The ripening process introduces sugars and softens the texture drastically.
Do Cherry Tomatoes Ripen off the Vine?
This is a common question: will my cherry tomatoes ripen off the vine? The answer is complicated, as it is sort of a yes and no.
In short, if you pick cherry tomatoes after they have begun changing color, then they will likely continue to ripen off the vine. If you pick the tomatoes while they are still pale green, then they will probably never turn red or ripen.
If you do pick tomatoes before they are a fully deep red color, always allow them to finish ripening. Cherry tomatoes will taste best when they are at their deepest red color. However, there are things you can do with unripe tomatoes.
So why do tomatoes continue to ripen? As explained by K State, tomatoes form a layer of cells that close off the tomato from the plant. This usually occurs when the tomato is halfway between a green color and the final ripeness color (often red).
If the tomato is picked after this cell wall forms, the tomato can continue to ripen off the plant. Picking a tomato after this occurs can also benefit the grower, since you can then control the temperature at which ripening happens.
Tip: Encourage your tomatoes to ripen faster by placing them in a warm location. You can also put them into a loosely closed bag to help trap ethylene gas and speed up color change.
How Many Cherry Tomatoes Per Plant?
While we’re on the subject of harvesting, let’s discuss yields. Cherry tomatoes can be highly prolific plants, but only if the conditions are perfect.
In short, a single cherry tomato plant can produce 50 or more individual fruits. However, yields can vary drastically based on weather conditions, container size, and tomato variety.
To increase your plant yields, use these tips:
- Grow in large enough containers
- Use nutrient rich soil and add compost if possible
- Pick ripe fruits promptly
- Prune away excess foliage and shoots (especially for indeterminate varieties)
- Fertilize regularly
I have experimented with many different growing methods and always find that these are the most important for better yields. Cherry tomatoes can be incredibly prolific. During late summer, I often have handfuls of new cherry tomatoes every single day!
How Long for Tomatoes to Turn Red?
It is easy to get antsy waiting for your tomatoes to turn red on the plant. However, this natural process can’t be rushed. The time it takes will depend on weather conditions, rain, and heat.
Once tomatoes begin to ripen, they will turn fully red within a few days. However, the primary factor that affects ripening speed is temperature.
Warmer temperatures will encourage faster ripening. If you have picked tomatoes that are underripe, place them in a bag and put it in a warm location, checking on them daily. Tomatoes will have the ideal flavor when they are fully red (or whatever color your variety should be).
I hope this article has helped you to feel confident about when to pick cherry tomatoes. When in doubt, wait for the tomatoes to change color before picking.