Posted on 22 September 2011 by

The Paradox between Tomatoes and Heat


By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Tomatoes love heat and the hotter the better to a point.

Many gardeners this year have been faced with a situation that is usual.

This situation is not cold, predators or disease but instead heat.

Across the United States, heat has been a major problem.

Many states have not only been faced with more than a month of temperatures above 90 degrees F but also no rain. States out west, which are used to the heat, are facing environmental conditions worse than the dustbowl. Midwest states have the heat but have not had the severe drought conditions but while this is good the crops are not growing and this includes tomatoes.

This combination of environmental factors is unusual and is forcing many farmers to purchase tomatoes from other areas to sell at their farmers’ markets. While this aids in meeting the summer demand for tomatoes, it does not quench the taste buds for locally grown produce. But for the home gardener there does exist a solution for this problem.

The first step is to understand how tomatoes ripen or the maturation process. Once tomato blooms are fertilized, the fruit begins to grow in size while the fruit remains green. After the mature size or mature green stage has been reached for that variety, the color will begin to change. This change will begin from a green to a light green and then they will turn the ripe color for that variety.

This simple process is controlled by two factors that work together to create ripe tomatoes. These factors are temperature and the presence of ethylene. Both of these factors need to be at optimum levels for ripening to occur.

Temperature is very important when it comes to ripening tomatoes and follows what I call the Goldie Locks complex. Temperatures too hot or above 85 degrees F cause the tomato plant to stress, which in turn causes tomatoes not to ripen. On the other hand, a temperature too low will not allow tomatoes to ripen either. The best temperature for tomato ripening is 68-78 degrees F. This temperature allows the tomatoes to produce just the right amount of ethylene and ripen on the vine.

The good news about this situation is once the temperature drops back down into the best range, tomato ripening will resume until a frost.

So until we blog again, temperature and ethylene, both can be found, around the tomato garden and all around. To turn the love apple into ripe fruit, Mother Nature must optimize the environmental truth. If the truth is not quite true, wait awhile and no doubt Mother Nature will turn it about.

One Response to “The Paradox between Tomatoes and Heat”

  1. Tomato Fan Says:

    Hello. I love tomatoes and I’m doing work on. Congratulation for this article. Thank you. -Tomato Fan-

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