Science has finally discovered a fool-proof way to detect just how ripe a tomato is.
And, yes. Humans can figure out if a tomato is ripe with their hands and eyes. But this technology is so advanced it could reduce large-scale food waste.
Researchers at the University of the Basque Country discovered the new technique. The highly specific procedure uses a portable Raman spectrometer, which Modern Farmer says can measure the ripeness of a tomato down to a granular level.
The spectrometer is so precise that in time, it could help farmers pick produce at the best possible time, which would allow fruit to ripen when it gets to a market—not after.
Is this technology necessary?
It may not seem like this new technique is necessary. After all, humans have been detecting tomato ripeness on their own for years.
But because this technology is so precise, it could reduce food waste.
“Grocery stores won’t sell over or under-ripe tomatoes,” Maat van Uitert, backyard gardening expert and author, says.
“So if a farmer can determine when their tomatoes are about to reach peak ripeness, chances are that a higher-quality, and healthier, product will be delivered to the consumer.”
In addition to reducing food waste, tomatoes picked at the height of ripeness contain a higher nutritional value than over or under-ripe tomatoes, van Uitert adds.
Tips for home tomato growers
Not all of us are lucky enough to have technology that can help us find perfectly ripe tomatoes. Luckily, all you really have to do to find ripe tomatoes in your garden is use your hands and eyes.
Easily discover if a tomato is ripe by gently squeezing it with your thumb on one side, and your four fingers on the other. The tomato should have a little give. So, if there’s no give, it’s not quite ripe, Varda Epstein, part-time gardener and communications writer at Kars4Kids, says.
A tomato is over-ripe if its skin has split, it smells sour, or is overly soft.
And remember: Don’t refrigerate tomatoes. Store them stem-side down and eventually, they’ll ripen. You can help the process along by placing under-ripe tomatoes in a sunny window or a paper bag.