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Hi, everyone! We’re gonna do a little episode here of “Tomato Talk”.

Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown and there’s always lots and lots of questions about tomatoes. In a regular garden and of course in a straw bale garden.

One of the common questions I get is, “When can I pick my tomatoes? “Do I have to wait for them to turn “completely red before I pick ’em?”

Well you might wait for a long time for some varieties of tomato, because some of ’em don’t ever turn completely red. This one happens to be called black krim or black prince. It’s an heirloom variety, and it doesn’t ever really get completely red. But if you start to see the bottom of your tomato begin to turn red, it’s usually okay to go ahead and pick it. By the time the bottom starts to turn red, the sugars have pretty much fully developed inside of that tomato. And it’s just gonna take a couple more days before it completely turns color. If you pick it put it on your counter, in your kitchen for a couple days. You’ll see it’ll turn red. And it’ll look just like those tomatoes are supposed to look before you put ’em on your BLT’s.

Another very common question is, “What about all these cracks I see in my tomatoes?” And now you’re gonna see more of these in your more older varieties, your heirloom varieties of tomatoes. Just because the newer varieties, the hybrids, they’ve tried to bread some of this common cracking out of the tomatoes. This cracking comes from two basic things. One is inconsistent watering. If you get a tomato that gets lots of water in the morning and dries out by night, sometimes it’ll get big cracks. And usually those cracks are gonna be from the top of the tomato down towards the side. What happens is the skin develops to a certain size and now the inside of the tomato tries to pull in all this moisture, and it splits that outside layer, ’cause it can’t expand as fast as the inside can expand. It tends to heal over very quickly, the tomatoes are still perfectly fine.

The other common cracks you’ll see in a tomato, are ones that go around the top of the tomato. These cracks are normally caused by exposure to the sun, or what we call sun scald on a tomato. Again, they’ll crack open a little bit, but they’ll usually scar over and heal up very quickly. As long as your tomatoes not mushy at all, when you pick it, if it’s still nice and firm. It’s probably still perfectly fine. When you cut into it, you’ll know very quickly whether that tomato is actually gonna be edible or not.

So if it’s real soft and mushy, I’d probably just throw it away, but otherwise just go ahead and cut those cracks off, and the tomato would be perfectly fine to go ahead and eat.

You’ll notice this tomato here. This particular variety has some real deep cracks in the top. And to a lot of people, this would be a tomato that they probably would throw away or wouldn’t eat. I would still keep this tomato. I think it’s perfectly fine. I would probably cut the top out, maybe put it on the grill and cook it down, and make some tomato basil soup out of it, or something like that. Certainly still perfectly edible at this point.

Every once in a while you’re gonna see a tomato, I don’t have a great example here, but a tomato with a chew spot in the bottom. Sort of a couple tooth marks out of the bottom of the tomato. Usually these tomatoes are gonna be lower on your plant.

If you see that, sometimes people think that’s an insect problem, it’s usually not. What is usually is a squirrel or a chipmunk that’s just taken a couple of bites out of the bottom of that tomato. It’s usually gonna be during a hot period in the summer. And the reason they do that is because they’re thirsty. They take a couple of bites out of there and they wait for the juice to pour out of the bottom of that tomato. And they sit at the bottom and lick that juice as it comes out of the bottom of the tomato. Just because they’re thirsty.

So if you want to solve that problem, if you start to see any bite marks in the bottoms of your tomatoes. Just put a little pie tin out in your garden and fill it up with fresh water every day.

And the chipmunks and squirrels will drink that, instead of biting holes in your tomatoes, in order to get moisture. So that’s a great way to solve that problem.

If you do see a bite mark, it’s not the end of the world. Just take your prairie knife and cut that section away, and you can still eat that tomato. People will tell me, “Oh, you’re gonna get rabies from it!” You’re not gonna get rabies, I’ve done it for 15, 20 years, I still eat those tomatoes, they’re perfectly fine.

Just make sure you cut away any section that could’ve been touched by that gopher or squirrel, and then wash your tomatoes really well, like you normally would do anyway.

So grow tomatoes! It’s one of the best things you can grow in your garden. Very productive and everybody loves tomatoes.

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