Posted on

Secret (& Unexpected) Signs of a Ripe Tomato

When is a tomato ripe?

Is a deceptively obvious question.

No matter our preconceived notions of color & shape, a tomato is ripe when its soft to the touch.


The best way to judge if a tomato is ripe is not by the color, but it’s softness.

Touch your arm, squeeze it gently: Both firm and supple, your arm as well as your ripe tomato can be plied and is ready to bounce back instantly.

And yes, I am totally encouraging you to squeeze your tomatoes…!

Green Shoulders on Tomatoes

Do your otherwise ripe tomatoes still have green or orange shoulders? Let’s talk.

First, know this: tomatoes photosynthesize sugars from the sun not only in their green leaves, but directly in their green fruit, as well. About 80% of the flavor in a tomato comes from the energy harnessed in leaves, the balance from the fruit itself.

Second: There are different levels of photosynthetic molecules and not all are equally powerful.

Third: The most powerful ones take the longest to ‘break down’ once the fruit is fully ripe, often staying green/orange at peak ripeness.

And finally: Tomato breeders a few generations back decided uniformity and ship-ability were way more important than flavor, so they selected against the strongest photosynthetic traits. (One of a thousand decisions resulting in our modern tomatoes becoming the pale, limp layer in reticent sandwiches.)

In conclusion: If your tomatoes, especially your heirlooms, are apparently ripe but maintain a green/orange halo around their shoulders, fear not. You have a more delicious tomato in your hands than you realize


Don’t judge tomato ripeness by its shoulders.

By the way, this is our Italian Heirloom,’ our favorite paste tomato with the rich flavor of a slicer. It’s our go-to for both sauces and tomato sandwiches. Italian Heirloom also has intermediate resistance to Late Blight, making it all the more abundant in our gardens. It often has orange shoulders, but its softness gives its ripeness away, every time. 

Are All Red Tomatoes Less Flavorful?

Not necessarily.

Here’s the thing: If you’re growing your own or selecting tomatoes at a farmer’s market, those fruit are very likely scrumptious. It’s only in the supermarket where I am suspicious of those uniformly red tomatoes.


Brandywise has full flavor and ripens evenly, every time.

We can have our cake and eat it too, though. Some modern varieties, like our Brandywise, have full flavor and ripen evenly, every time. Your tastebuds will tell you!

Enjoy all those ripening tomatoes in your gardens, Friends!

Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,

image 7

& the whole Fruition crew


If you want to surround yourself with little-known facts, extensive organic gardening wisdom and incredible community, join our Flourish Garden Club for a whole new level of organic gardening.