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.
- $6 for 1/2 Peck
- $12 a Peck
- $22 for 1/2 Bushel
When available, we are open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Please check our website, Twitter, 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 a 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.
Storing Your Tomatoes
• Never place tomatoes on a sunny windowsill to ripen; they may rot before they are ripe! Store at a cool room temperature out of direct sunlight. Keep on a plate; never store them in a plastic bag. Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes. Doing so spoils the flavor and texture that make up that wonderful garden tomato taste.
• Storing tomatoes under 50 degrees can cause problems for tomatoes, changing the flavor.
• Tomatoes can be dried, marinated in oil, canned, used to make salsa, pasta sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, or juice. Tomatoes can also be grilled, roasted, or sautéed.
• To speed the ripening process, place the tomatoes in a pierced paper bag with an apple, which emits ethylene gas, a ripening agent.
• Ripe tomatoes generally last two to three days
Starting with freshly picked tomatoes:
There are several ways to freeze tomatoes. With or without skin; blanched or not; cut up or whole. We decided to go with the quick-n-easy method; freezing whole.
• Wash tomatoes to remove any excess dirt. Pat the tomatoes dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.
• Place tomatoes on a cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours to firm up so as to preserve their shape prior to placing them in freezer bags.
• Once tomatoes are frozen, place them into freezer bags. Make sure all of the air is squeezed out of the bags. (See Helpful Hints below).
• The skins will slip off when they defrost.
• Label the bags first with the date and any other information you desire on your bag. Writing on a bulky, wet bag is next to impossible, so do it before filling your bags.
• If you don’t own a vacuum sealer but want to get as much air out of your Ziploc bags, try using a straw to manually suck out excess air. I know, it sounds crazy but it does help. When you close your Ziploc bag, leave a section unzipped, just wide enough for a straw. (Use a firm straw. Those wimpy bendable ones really don’t work as well). With the straw in place, remove air by sucking the air out until the bag collapses more. Now, for the tricky part: Press the straw closed where it is inserted to try and prevent escaping air and quickly press the bag closed as you retract the straw. Although not a perfect solution, it works fairly well and if you’re doing this when the kids are around it provides wonderful entertainment.
Stocking up on fresh, juicy tomatoes when they are in season can help keep your diet healthy all year long. A few simple steps now will have you and your family enjoying this delightful vegetable/fruit for months to come.
Vern & Gayle Stade
• According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans eat between 22- 24 pounds of tomatoes per person, per year.
• The tomato is America’s fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce, and onions.
• Fresh-market tomatoes are grown in all 50 states.
• The largest worldwide producer of tomatoes is China, followed by USA, Turkey, India and Egypt.
• When the tomato was introduced to Europe in the 1500s, The French called it “the apple of love.”
• The U.S. Department of Agriculture says there are 25,000 tomato varieties.
• Tomato is a cousin of the eggplant, red pepper, ground cherry, potato.
• According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest tomato tree grows at Walt Disney World Resort’s experimental greenhouse and yields a harvest of more than 32,000 tomatoes and weighs 1,151.84 pounds (522 kg). The plant was discovered in Beijing, China, by Yong Huang, Epcot’s manager of agricultural science, who took its seeds and grew them in the experimental greenhouse. Today, the plant produces thousands of golf ball-sized tomatoes that are served at Walt Disney World’s restaurants and can be seen by tourists riding the “Living With the Land” boat ride at the Epcot Center.
• One medium sized tomato provides over a third of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, and nearly a third of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A.
• At least 19 states hold tomato festivals.
Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
May Sarton (1912-1995) American poet, novelist, and memoirist