Pick-Your-Own Produce


Experience the Joy of Picking-Your-Own

Experience the Joy of Picking-Your-Own

"And into the field I go to lose my mind and find my soul"

Apple Pricing

  • $10 for a 1/4 Peck Bag
  • $30 for a Peck Bag
  • $50 for a 1/2 Bushel

Note: A $10 minimum apple purchase per person is required to enter the apple orchard (ages two years and under are free). This means that every person entering the apple orchard must at least purchase a 1/4 Peck Bag (you may purchase a larger size and apply the $6 minimum toward the larger bag). Although there IS NOT an admission fee to pick apples, just to be clear, each person must make a minimum $6 purchase to enter the orchard.

Bags are included in the apple picking price, and picking is only allowed using the bags Stade’s provides.

Available apple varieties and the approximate picking times:

Zestar, Sansa, and Blondee, and Brookfield Gala Apples are available late August/early September
Honeycrisp, Flaming Early Red, Red Jonaprince, Empire, and September Wonder Fuji Apples are available mid/late September.
Red Cameo, Orange Cox Pippen Apples are available late September
Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Winecrisp, and Rosalie Apples are available early/mid-October
Goldrush, Evercrisp, and Granny Smith Apples are available late October


Pick-Your-Own Hours

When applicable, our orchard is open from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  We recommend you check our website and/or Facebook for the most recent picking, crop, and weather conditions that may affect your u-pick experience.

Stade’s reserves the right to close the Apple Orchard due to inclement weather (heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and/or severe winds) without advance notice in order to protect their customers and employees.


Stade’s Apple Orchard

After years of studying, planning, planting, and pruning, Stade’s Farm & Market opened a beautiful pick-your-own apple orchard in Fall 2017. Apples have always had a healthy reputation. The old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” has proven to be more than just a cute rhyme. The documented health benefit of apples has proven quite accurate, indeed. The many health benefits of apples include lowering bad cholesterol and reducing the risk of cancer.

In both the spring of 2013 and 2014, Stade’s planted a total of 800 semi-dwarf apple trees. In the spring of 2015, we planted 2,600 dwarf apple trees, and in 2016 we added 1000 more Honey Crisp. In the spring of 2017, we added an additional 2200 Honeycrisp and Evercrisp dwarf trees. In the spring of 2018, we added 1280 new trees including Rosalie, Zestar, and Pixie Crunch. The apple varieties available will include Honeycrisp, Gala, Evercrisp, Jonagold, Zestar, Golden Delicious & some heirloom apples.

The semi-dwarf is a medium-sized, free-standing tree that can range in height from 12 to 16 feet tall. The dwarf is a short tree needing trellising for support and ranges from 8 to 12 feet in height. The apple is a hardy perennial tree that grows in all temperate zones. Apples grow best in climates with moderately cold winters and warm summers with medium to high humidity. We are in a great zone for successful growth.

Stade’s Farm works diligently to provide wholesome fruits and vegetables to our many customers, and we hope you will enjoy yet another juicy delight, Apples!


Apple Facts

Americans eat more apples per capita than any other fruit, and they taste great, too!

  • Apple trees, depending on the variety, take two to five years to produce their first fruit.
  • It takes about an average of 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider.
  • A peck of apples weighs 10.5 pounds. A bushel of apples weighs about 42 pounds and will yield 20-24 quarts of applesauce.
  • There are more than 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States, and they come in all shades of red, green, and yellow.
  • The science of apple growing is called pomology.
  • Bobbing for apples? Twenty-five percent of an apple’s volume is air; that’s why they float.
  • Pilgrims planted the first U.S. apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
  • Most apple blossoms are pink when they open but gradually transition to white.
  • It takes the energy from 50 leaves to produce one apple.
  • One of George Washington’s hobbies was pruning his apple trees.
  • Most apples are still picked by hand

Green Bean season begins in July and will be available through the first frost, which is usually early October. At Stade’s, we plant green beans every week in the spring and summer. Green beans grow very well in the climate and soils of Northeastern Illinois making them one of our favorite crops.

Be sure to sign up for our email updates and we’ll let you know the exact date our green beans will be ready for picking. Watch our website and Facebook as well as our Newsletter for more information.


Green Beans – Pricing

  • $5 for 1 quart
  • $10 for 2 quarts
  • $15 for 4 quarts (buckets are included) Buy FIVE, get ONE FREE, but 10 get TWO FREE, buy 15 get THREE FREE, etc.

We accept all forms of payment except American Express.

Note: There is a $5 minimum purchase per person required to enter the Pick-Your-Own area. You must pick using the containers that we provide.


Pick-Your-Own Hours

When picking is available we are open from 9:00 AM  – 5:00 PM. Please check our website, Facebook, or call (815) 675-6396 for picking conditions and more information. Stade’s reserves the right to close the picking areas due to inclement weather (heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and/or high winds) without advance notice in order to protect their customers and employees.


How to Pick Green Beans

Green Beans are generally ready to harvest once they reach a length of approximately four inches, and the diameter is about the size of a pencil.
Green beans should be firm, crisp, and show no visible bulges. A bulge indicates that the green bean is overripe. Overripe beans will lose their sweetness and become fibrous. A perfectly ripe green bean will make a snapping noise when broken into pieces. This is why we call green beans, “snap beans.”

Once you have found a green bean you want to pick, grasp it firmly up near the top where it connects to the vine. Use the other hand to support the vine and pinch the pod to take it off the vine. Be careful not to break the plant or snap the bean in half.

The blossom end of the stem will usually still be attached to the bean after you pick it. The plants will continue to produce green beans over a long period of time; therefore, great care should be taken to not damage the plant when picking green beans. Pulling too hard can break the rest of the branch, stopping further bean production.

Peppers – Coming Summer of 2021
We offer a variety of different peppers to pick: Green and Purple Bell Peppers, Sweet Banana, Hot Banana, Jalapeno, Pablano, Serrano, Habanero, Cayenne, and Gypsy.

Pepper Pricing

  • $10 for ½ peck
  • $15 for 1 peck
  • $25 for ½ a bushel

Note: A $5 minimum Pepper purchase per person is required to enter the Pick-Your-Own area. This means that every person entering must at least purchase a 1-quart container. You may purchase a larger size and apply the $5 minimum toward the larger container.
Baskets are included in the price and picking is only allowed into Stade’s containers.
We accept all forms of payment except American Express.


Attention Families with Young Children

We are excited that you are visiting our farm with your children! We do, however, want to inform you that it is important that you bring your stroller or wagon if your child/children need a ride out to the Pick-Your-Own fields. It is a bit of a walk to the picking area, and the wagons we have available are only suitable to transport large Pick-Your-Own purchases. For the safety of your children, please do not allow them to ride in the Stade’s wagons. Thank you for your cooperation!


Pick-Your-Own Hours

When applicable we are open from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (8:30 AM during our strawberry season). Please check our website, Facebook, or call (815) 675-6396 for picking conditions and more information. Stade’s reserves the right to close the picking areas due to inclement weather (heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and/or high winds) without advance notice in order to protect their customers and employees.

Be sure to sign up for our email updates and we’ll keep you informed about any updates and changes. Watch our website, Facebook, and our Newsletter for more information.


How to Pick Peppers

If you love the flavor of fresh peppers, then you are going to love picking them at Stade’s Farm.

To pick a pepper from the plant, we recommend you gently lift the pepper up and twist. This should allow the pepper to snap off, leaving about an inch of stem attached to the pepper itself. Your pepper is ripe and ready to pick when it is firm to touch. Mild peppers and hot peppers can be harvested when they reach full size and are fully colored, or they can be harvested as soon as they reach a usable size. Peppers can be eaten at just about any stage of development.

At Stade’s, we grow many different varieties of pumpkins. Sizes range from one pound to 200 pounds; colors are classic dark orange, white, blue, green, pink, or yellow; shapes can be tall and narrow, short and squatty, or perfectly round; pie pumpkins, small gourd pumpkins, basketball-size pumpkins, large pumpkins, and giant pumpkins. We also have pumpkins that are specifically grown for seed roasting. Whatever your likes are, you can find the perfect pumpkin here in Stade’s pumpkin patch.


Pumpkin Pricing

  • $8 each for any size pumpkin in the pumpkin patch.

Pick-Your-Own Hours for Pumpkins

Weekend tractor-driven rides to the Pumpkin Patch are available from 10 AM – 5:30 PM. Please check our website, Facebook, or call (815) 675-6396 for picking conditions and more information. Stade’s reserves the right to close the pumpkin patch due to inclement weather (heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and/or severe winds) without advance notice in order to protect their customers and employees.


Farmtractions Theme Park

Stade’s Farmtractions Theme Park will be open weekends only; Saturdays and Sundays in September and Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in October. The theme park is also open on Monday, Oct. 14th (Columbus Day) from 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM. This weekend festival is officially named our Shades of Autumn Fall Festival, complete with all the family fun and traditions you have come to know and love at Stade’s Farm. For more information visit our attractions page.


How to Pick Pumpkins

Be a Pumpkin Inspector. For starters, the flesh should be firm and the stem should not be dried out (in most cases the darker the orange, the healthier the pumpkin). Look for small holes which are a sign that the pumpkin is rotting from the inside. The shape is up to you and doesn’t affect the quality.

Not all Pumpkins are for Eating. Not all pumpkins are good for a pie filling. Pie pumpkins are about 6-8″ in diameter and will have smoother, less stringy flesh than a decorative pumpkin. Ask one of our friendly Stade’s attendants to show you where the pie pumpkins are. Note: They are generally in the market for purchase and NOT in the field for picking.

Just Pok’in Around. Yes, pumpkins can be a little pokey or prickly on the stem. If this is an issue for the young ones, either pick the pumpkin for them or have the kids wear gloves when picking. Oh, and don’t try to carry or lift the pumpkin by its stem because it’s likely to break.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Pumpkin. It’s easy for kids to get excited about the ‘hugest pumpkin in all the world’ which generally turns out to be a pumpkin far too heavy for them (or you) to carry. Help kids pick a pumpkin that they can successfully handle. We will have wheelbarrows available (not for kids/people to ride in) for you to transport your pumpkins to your vehicles.

Splish, Splash. Always come prepared because weather conditions can change rapidly and field conditions may be wet and muddy. Make sure you wear a pair of boots or old shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. It’s always a good idea to pack clean socks and shoes in a plastic garbage bag that you leave in the car. This way if conditions change, you will have clean shoes and socks for the ride home and a garbage bag to place any soiled items.

Harvesting Memories. Spending a day pumpkin picking at Stade’s Farm is a wonderful way to build family traditions, priceless memories, and discover the thrill and wonder of the blessings of harvest. We invite you to join us this season and let Stade’s help create your lasting family memories.


Carving Your Pumpkins

It’s hard to deny the magic one feels from the warm glow of a candle inside an artfully carved pumpkin. Carving pumpkins is a time-honored tradition but it sure can get messy. Following are what we have found to be excellent carving instructions as well as a few tips and tricks to help preserve the length of time your pumpkin lasts.

1. You will be using a sharp knife. Always handle a knife cautiously and never allow children to carve unattended. Find a time when you will not be distracted (turn off cell phones).

2. Cover your work surface with old newspaper and be sure to have a bowl or bucket on hand for the seeds and pulp. Check each side of the pumpkin and choose where you want your face to be carved.

3. With a pen, inscribe and etch the outlines for your eyes, nose, and mouth on the pumpkin. You should also draw the outline for the lid at the same time. Be sure to make the lid large enough for your hand to fit inside the pumpkin. Consider making a hexagon lid as it is easier to cut than a circle.

4. Using a paring knife cut out your lid. Don’t forget to cut a notch in the lid, so you can easily fit it back on the pumpkin. (Don’t carve the face yet.)

5. It is important to cut the lid at a 45° angle slanting inward, with the top of the lid larger than the bottom, so your lid will fir snugly back on without falling in. (Don’t you hate when that happens?)

6. Use a large serving spoon or an ice cream scoop to clean out the seeds and stringy goop inside.

7. Scrape the sides, bottom, and lid firmly so they are nice and clean. If you will be placing a candle in your pumpkin, be sure to scrape a flat surface in the bottom of your pumpkin to stand the candle.

8. Next, carefully cut out the eyes, nose, and mouth and pop the pieces out from the inside.

9. Finally, place a tea light or votive candle in a glass holder in the bottom of your pumpkin.

10. Find free pumpkin carving patterns and templates you can download here.

Stade’s Farm & Market

Midwest Living has 10 Free stencils specific to the Midwest such as corn, a barn, a sunflower and more. You can view these free stencils by clicking on the pumpkin photo. In addition to these 10 free stencils you can also find 45-decorating ideas for your pumpkin projects this fall.  Pumpkin Decorating Projects.

Helpful Tips

Carved pumpkins tend to not last very long. Here are a few steps you can take to prolong your pumpkins life.

  • Once carved, coat the cut edges of your Jack-O-Lantern with vegetable oil or petroleum jelly. The idea is to seal the flesh so it will not have moisture loss. Sealing also inhibits mold growth.
  • Keep your pumpkin out of direct sun during the day.
  • Place your pumpkin in a bucket of water overnight.

Varieties of Pumpkins

There are many varieties of pumpkins, coming in all shapes and sizes, being as diverse as they are plentiful. Below are a few of the varieties grown at Stade’s Farm and Market.

Stade’s Farm & Market

Jack-O-Lantern

The Jack-O-Lantern variety is bred especially for carving. They have stiff straight walls, fibrous flesh, and are perfect for carving. Their hollow cavities work well for holding candles.

Stade’s Farm & Market

Cinderella Pumpkins

Cinderella Pumpkins resemble the pumpkin that Cinderella’s fairy godmother transformed
into a carriage. While oftentimes used as a decorative pumpkin, their flavor is good for both pie or winter squash recipes.

Stade’s Farm & Market

Blue Hubbard

The Blue Hubbard squash has a finely-textured, yellow-orange flesh that is medium sweet with a very hard rind. It can be cooked on its own or added to soups.

Stade’s Farm & Market

Kakai Pumpkin

The Kakai Pumpkin is especially good for toasted pumpkin seeds. Kakai seeds are completely hull-less. The pumpkin has bright orange and green stripes. It is pronounced Kah-Ki.

Raspberry Pick-Your-Own 

Stade’s Farm offers summer and fall raspberries. The summer crop begins in early July and the fall crop begins in mid-August and continues to produce until early to mid-October.

Raspberries are always available on a first-come, first served basis and there are days that no raspberries are available to pick as we wait for more to ripen. Please always confirm availability before you take a drive to the farm.  Our Facebook page will keep our most recent updates.

Stade’s has over three acres of prime picking of this popular fruit available for your enjoyment! We have four varieties of summer raspberries and six varieties of fall berries to extend the picking season. Be sure to watch our website, Facebook, and our Newsletter for the most up-to-date information on picking conditions and availability.


Raspberry Pricing

  • $5 for a 1-pint
  • $10 for a 1-quart basket
  • $20 for a 2-quart basket

We accept all forms of payment except American Express.

Note: There is a $5 minimum purchase per person required to enter the raspberry Pick-Your-Own area.
Baskets are included in the price and picking must be done using the containers we provide.


Pick-Your-Own Hours

We are open from 9:00 AM  –  5:00 PM Please check our website, Facebook, or call (815) 675-6396 for picking conditions and more information. Raspberries are only available on some days. We have no way of knowing ahead of time whether or not we will have raspberries to pick until the day of.

Please keep in mind that our raspberries typically sell out on the same day and then we need to allow a day or two for our crop to replenish until we can open the patch again. We recommend you check our website and/or Facebook for the most recent picking, crop, and weather conditions that may affect your picking experience. Stade’s reserves the right to close the picking area due to inclement weather (heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and/or high winds) without advance notice in order to protect their customers and employees.


How to Pick Raspberries

When picking, you want to part the leaves with your hands to look for berries, picking only the berries that are dark red. Oftentimes people think raspberries have thorns, but they do not. They do, however, have tiny stickers, kind of like Velcro. Those can be tender to the skin, so try and touch only the berries, which generally is easy to do since the berries stand out from the rest of the plant.

You will want to grasp the raspberry with your fingers and thumb and pull gently. Ripe raspberries will come off easily in your hand, leaving the core still attached to the stem. If the berry doesn’t release easily, it is not ripe; therefore, do not pick it. Raspberries can damage easily, so you want to be sure you place them carefully in your basket.

Never leave your berries in the car trunk or on the car seat for too long. You’ll want to cool them as soon as possible after picking them. Raspberries are perishable, so you will want to refrigerate them as soon as possible after picking. Unripe berries will not ripen once picked.

Pick-Your-Own Strawberries – COMING MID-JUNE 2021

Strawberry Season

We offer nearly 20 acres of prime strawberries for your enjoyment! Picking your own strawberries at Stade’s Farm & Market is a great way to spend a summer day with your family and friends.

Please sign up for our email updates and watch our website, Facebook, and our Newsletter for more information. Stade’s Farm offers other crops to pick as well, apples, sugar snap peas, raspberries, green beans, tomatoes, and pumpkins


Strawberry Pricing

  • $5 for a 1-quart basket
  • $10 for a 2-quart basket
  • $15 for a 4-quart basket
  • Buy FIVE 4-quart baskets and the sixth one is FREE (6 baskets for $75). Buy TEN 4-quart baskets, get two FREE (12 baskets for $150).

Note: A $5 minimum strawberry purchase per person is required to enter the strawberry patch. This means that every person entering the strawberry patch must at least purchase a 1-quart container (you may purchase a larger size and apply the $5 minimum toward the larger container). Although, there IS NOT an admission fee to pick berries, just to be clear each person must make a minimum $5 purchase to enter our Pick-Your-Own area.
Baskets are included in the price and picking is only allowed into the containers Stade’s provides.

We accept all forms of payment except American Express.


Pick-Your-Own Hours

During the regular strawberry season, we are open daily from 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM We recommend you check our website and/or Facebook for the most recent picking, crop, and weather conditions that may affect your u-pick experience. Stade’s reserves the right to close the Strawberry Field due to inclement weather (heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and/or high winds) without advance notice in order to protect their customers and employees.


Attention Families with Young Children

We are excited that you are visiting our farm with your children! We do, however, want to inform you that it is important that you bring your stroller or wagon if your child/children need a ride out to the strawberry fields. It is a bit of a walk to the picking area, and the wagons we have available are only suitable to transport large berry purchases. For the safety of your children, please do not allow them to ride in the Stade’s strawberry-carrying wagons. Thank you for your cooperation!


Farm Market

During the strawberry season, we typically have several of our own homegrown fruits and vegetables. Some of the available choices could be; asparagus, rhubarb, spinach, radishes, lettuce, and other produce depending on how warm/early the spring is this year. Our bakery will be open daily, offering our famous homemade cider donuts and fresh-baked pies. We harvest our own local honey, (limited supply) right here at Stade’s Farm as well. The market carries many spices, soup mixes, bread, and pancake mixes, as well as a nice selection of gluten-free items.


How to Pick Berries

Choose your strawberries carefully. Leave the cap attached to the berry. Your strawberries should be a bright red color. Berries that appear orange or slightly green are not ripe.

Strawberries do not ripen after being removed from the plant. The size of a strawberry does not affect how sweet the fruit will taste.

Sugar Snap Peas – Coming Summer of 2021

Sugar Snap Pea Pricing

  • $5 for a 1-quart basket
  • $10 for a 2-quart basket
  • $15 for a 4-quart basket
  • Buy FIVE 4-quart baskets and the sixth one is FREE (6 baskets for $75). Buy TEN 4-quart baskets, get two FREE (12 baskets for $150).

Note: A $5 minimum Sugar Snap Pea purchase per person is required to enter the Pick-Your-Own area. This means that every person entering must at least purchase a 1-quart container. You may purchase a larger size and apply the $5 minimum toward the larger container.
Baskets are included in the price and picking is only allowed into Stade’s containers.

We accept all forms of payment except American Express.


Attention Families with Young Children

We are excited that you are visiting our farm with your children! We do, however, want to inform you that it is important that you bring your stroller or wagon if your child/children need a ride out to the Pick-Your-Own fields. It is a bit of a walk to the picking area, and the wagons we have available are only suitable to transport large Pick-Your-Own purchases. For the safety of your children, please do not allow them to ride in the Stade’s wagons. Thank you for your cooperation!


Pick-Your-Own Hours

When applicable we are open from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (8:30 AM during our strawberry season). Please check our website, Facebook, or call (815) 675-6396 for picking conditions and more information. Stade’s reserves the right to close the picking areas due to inclement weather (heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and/or high winds) without advance notice in order to protect their customers and employees.

Be sure to sign up for our email updates and we’ll keep you informed about any updates and changes. Watch our website, Facebook, and our Newsletter for more information.


How to Pick Sugar Snap Peas

If you love the flavor of fresh peas, then you are going to love picking Sugar Snap Peas at Stade’s Farm. Typically the pods of standard green peas can be hard to chew, but that is not so with sugar snap peas. These peas were bred with their fibers going in one direction, which makes chewing easier.

The sugar snap pea plant produces tender, juicy pods used in many culinary dishes such as pasta, salads, lightly steamed, or simply enjoyed as a raw snack. Sugar snap peas differ from snow peas in that their pods are round as opposed to flat. Pods typically contain three to five peas per pod, and the peas are bigger than the unformed peas that are in snow pea pods. These edible pods are sweeter and larger than snow peas and bursting with flavor. They are an enjoyable, crunchy snack packed with vitamins, fiber, and texture.

You will want to select pods with bright green color and smooth skin. The pods should be full, and the peas developed. Gently pull the pea from the vine while holding the vine with your other hand so you don’t pull it out of place. To get the maximum antioxidant benefit, you will want to eat your sugar snap peas promptly. Sugar snap peas, with their wonderfully sweet, edible-pods, make for a favorite Pick-Your-Own experience.

Sunflower picking on the farm begins in mid-July and will last through late September.  We have 2+ acres and 18 different varieties of sunflowers planted for 2021. We also grow other cut flowers such as snapdragons, zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, and amaranthus.


Sunflower Pricing

  • $2 each
  • $5 for 3 flowers
  • $25 per vase all you can fit inside (Zinnias may be picked for vases at the same price)

Note: Flower clippers are provided if needed.

We accept all forms of payment except American Express.


Attention Families with Young Children

We are excited that you are visiting our farm with your children! However, we want to inform you that it is important that you bring your stroller or wagon if your child/children need a ride out to the Pick-Your-Own fields. It is a bit of a walk to the picking area, and the wagons we have available are only suitable to transport large Pick-Your-Own purchases. For the safety of your children, please do not allow them to ride in the Stade’s wagons. Thank you for your cooperation!


Pick-Your-Own Hours

When applicable, we are open from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (8:30 AM during our strawberry season). Please check our website, Facebook, or call (815) 675-6396 for picking conditions and more information. Stade’s reserves the right to close the picking areas due to inclement weather (heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and/or high winds) without advance notice in order to protect their customers and employees.

Be sure to sign up for our email updates, and we’ll keep you informed about any updates and changes. Watch our website, Facebook, and our newsletter for more information.


How to Pick Sunflowers

With sharp pruners or clippers, clip the flower off of the plant about 6 inches below the flower head.

Handle sunflowers gently. The flowers should last at least a week in water at room temperature.

Pick-Your Own tomatoes at Stade’s Farm & Market typically begins late August and continues until the first frost, which is usually in early October. At Stade’s we grow many different varieties of tomatoes in order to have an adequate supply throughout the late summer and into fall. Our tomato plants are staked to keep them off the ground and make them easy to pick. We plant approximately 8,000 tomato plants in May.

Be sure to sign up for our email updates. Watch our website, Facebook, and our Newsletter for more information.


Tomato Pricing

  • $10 – 1/2 Peck
  • $15 – Peck
  • $25 – 1/2 Bushel

Pick-Your-Own Hours

When available, we are open from 9:00 AM  – 5:00 PM. Please check our website, Facebook, or call (815) 675-6396 for picking conditions and more information. Stade’s reserves the right to close the picking area due to inclement weather (heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and/or severe winds) without advance notice in order to protect their customers and employees.


How to Pick Tomatoes

Tomatoes taste their best when picked at their prime, which means the redder, the better! Most ripe tomatoes are bright red, although different varieties of tomatoes can have different colors. You can pick tomatoes that are still green, and they will ripen off the vine; however, the taste will not be as good as vine-ripened tomatoes. If you want to ripen green tomatoes, place them in a paper bag with the stem up and store them in a cool, dark place.

Tomatoes begin to ripen on the bottom first, so you will want to check the bottom of the tomatoes for the mature ripe color of the variety you are picking. Oftentimes ripe tomatoes have some yellow remaining around the stem, which is perfectly fine. Ripe tomatoes should feel slightly firm when you gently squeeze them. (Note: A hard tomato needs additional time to ripen.) The tomato skin should be smooth and slightly shiny. A tomato that is too soft all over is overripe.

You can also check the ripeness of the tomato by its weight in your hand. A lighter-weight tomato indicates the fruit may not be quite ripe yet. A heavier, denser tomato usually indicates a ripe, ready-to-pick fruit. Ripe tomatoes have a sweet, earthy smell, which usually indicates a very flavorful tomato. It is important to note when picking tomatoes that they do not necessarily need to reach full color since they will continue to ripen once picked.

When picking, simply pluck the tomatoes gently from the plant with your fingers. Be sure to support its weight, so you don’t drop it on the ground. You may want to gently take hold of the stem of the plant and support it before you pick the fruit. Some tomatoes will come off the vine easier than others, so be patient as you pick. Carefully place your tomatoes in your basket and remember not to overfill, or you run the risk of damaging the fruit or losing them on the ground.