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Garden Help Desk: Why are my tomatoes still green?

August 19, 2018

Garden Help Desk – USU Extension – August 19, 2018

Question: When is the best time to pick my pears?

Answer: The right time to pick your pears will depend on what variety of pears you are growing. Bartlett pears can usually be picked starting in mid-August, and their harvest usually ends by the middle of September. Winter pears, like Bosc, D’Anjou or Comice, take a few weeks longer to be ready.

Pears are best picked when they are mature, but before they are fully ripe. They won’t finish ripening if they’re picked too early. If they are left to ripen on the tree for too long, they’ll be mushy, mealy and brown inside. Here are some things to look for:

A few pears will drop from the tree when harvest time arrives. Pears that are wormy or damaged in some way will drop early, but if undamaged pears drop, it’s one sign that they may be ready.

The color on the pears will lighten, and the darker dots or speckles on the skin will be more obvious.

Take a few of the best dropped pears and cut into them. The seed coat on the seeds (the outer layer of the seeds) will be dark brown. If the outsides of the seeds look white or tan, the pears aren’t ready yet.

Take hold of a few pears and gently lift and twist them. If they release from the tree easily they are ready to harvest. If you have to pull very firmly, the pears aren’t ready to pick.

For most trees, the harvest will last about seven to 10 days. Your pears won’t all be ready to pick at the same time. Start with the largest pears and continue to check often for the smaller ones.

You can refrigerate your Bartlett pears for a few weeks or keep them at room temperature to let them ripen and soften for a few days before eating. Winter pears are best after they’ve been in cold storage for a few months.

For Asian pears, let them ripen on the tree. Once the skins start to turn yellow, pick and taste a few. If they taste sweet, they are ready.

Question: I have lots of beautiful, full-sized tomatoes in my garden, but the tomatoes aren’t ripening. It’s been almost two weeks since I first noticed, and nothing has changed. Is there something I can do to get the tomatoes to ripen?

Answer: There are a few different reasons why tomatoes may seem to stall out and not ripen.

First, different tomato varieties have different “days to harvest” — the number of days from when the tomatoes were planted and when you should expect to pick your first ripe tomato. Check the seed packet or tag and make sure your tomatoes really should be ripening now.

Cool temperatures can also slow ripening, but this year we’ve had just the opposite conditions. Our daytime highs have been consistently above 85 degrees and frequently into the mid-90s. It’s a misconception that tomatoes love lots of heat; they like it warm, but too much heat can cause problems. When temperatures approach the 90s, tomatoes stop producing the pigments that give them their red or orange color. You can end up with big, beautiful tomatoes that stay green, even though they are mature. This effect can last for quite a while. There is no fertilizer or spray that will solve this problem.

Check those beautiful tomatoes for any signs of color change on the blossom end. If you see a slight color change, you can try picking some of those tomatoes and bringing them indoors to ripen at room temperature.

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