Your gardens are producing non-stop and it’s time to harvest as soon as your fruits and veggies are ready. The importance of harvesting your fruits and veggies can’t be stressed enough. It’s part of tending to your garden, and the best one at that! Harvesting clears the area for new growth, prevents disease and of course provides you with food. We’ve put together this guide to help you.
Pumpkins and Winter Squash
Ready when you can’t penetrate the rind with a fingernail. They should be hard and deep in color. Don’t pick up pumpkins by the stem! If the stem comes off, the fruit may rot.
Store winter squash in a cool dry place from 2 – 6 months depending on the variety.
Summer Squash and Zucchini
Should be picked when no longer than 6″-8″ and 2″ in diameter. Harvesting keeps the plants producing. Cut the fruits off the vine leaving 1″ of stem attached.
Store summer squash on a counter for about a week. Do not keep in the refrigerator as they will get soggy over time and their flavor won’t be as good.
Harvest when the fruits are firm and the color has fully changed. Usually 60-85 days before you’ll start harvesting, but after you start harvesting, they’ll keep coming very quickly. Certain types just drop from the plant when ripe. It’s safe to pick them up and eat them.
Do not store tomatoes in the refrigerator. They will lose their flavor. Store on a counter for up to a week.
Pick before buds become flowers and heads are compact and deep green. Harvest by cutting the stem 4″-6″ under the head.
Broccoli does best when stored in a cool, moist environment. Store them in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Harvest time is typically 2-3 months after planting, when the carrots are bigger.
- Water before harvesting to make it easier.
- Loosen the soil and carefully pull the carrots up. Remove the greenery and dirt.
- Finish harvesting after the first frost. Don’t wait until the ground freezes.
To store carrots, trim the leafy greens from the top and store them separately. Carrots like to be cool and moist. Keep them in the refrigerator for weeks. Placing your carrots in a little water and an airtight bag will keep them longer.
Harvest when heads are fully-grown but the curds haven’t separated. Cut just below the head and leave some leaves to protect the easily bruised curds.
Store cauliflower for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
- Silks are dark brown and soft
- Kernels are tender, plump and produce a milky liquid when punctured. Corn isn’t ripe if the liquid is watery and clear. It’s overripe if there isn’t any liquid.
Corn is best eaten quickly, but you can keep corn in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Pick when large enough to eat, but before they change to yellow or orange. Pick every ripe cuke; letting them over-ripen ends production. Harvest by holding the cuke in one hand, the stem in the other and pulling the fruit off the vine.
It’s best to keep cukes at room temperature. Not only will they taste better, but also will last longer. Cucumbers become soggy after 3-5 days in a refrigerator. Keep cucumbers away from ethylene gas producing fruits and veggies such as bananas, tomatoes, apples and melons.
Harvest eggplant when around 4″-5″ long, unless you have a mini variety. Eggplant skin is tight and glossy when ripe. If dull, the fruit is overripe. Cut the fruit off the vine, leaving about 1″ of the stem attached.
Store for about a week on the counter. You can keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Eggplant develops pitting and water-soaked areas (becomes soggy) when chilled too long.
It’s best to:
- Wait until the third year so the plants have healthier root systems.
- Only pick spears thicker than a pencil.
- Harvest in early spring at about 6-8″ tall and tips are firm and closed. Snap off at or slightly below ground level.
Asparagus prefers to be stored in a cool, moist environment such as your refrigerator. They can last up to 2 weeks and prefer to be stored upright.
Leaf Lettuce is ready around 40 days after planting. Pick when the leaves are 4″-5″ long. Either harvest bigger outer leaves or cut the whole plant at 1″ above ground. The latter makes the plant regrow another crop in 3-5 weeks.
Head & Romaine Lettuce is ready around 70 days from seeding or 20-35 days from transplanting. Cut at ground level when they’re firm.
Store lettuce for up to a week in the refrigerator, as they prefer the cool moist environment.
All melons should vine-ripen for the best flavor.
- Muskmelons (aka cantaloupe, rock melon) – pick when the rind is tan under the surface netting. Look for a crack on the stem where it attaches to the fruit. This is called the “slip” stage, which means it’ll come off the vine easily. If it’s hard to get off the vine, it’s probably not ripe. If the outer skin is soft, the melon is overripe.
- Watermelons – are ready when the curly tendril near the stem is dry and brown and if you thump the melon, you hear a deep sound. The rind should be dull and hard to puncture with a fingernail.
- Honeydews – are often picked too early. Record the maturity date for your variety and leave the fruit on the vine until then or a few days longer.
Store melons at room temperature until ripe. Once ripe, store uncut melons in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Melons are actually very delicate and the ethylene gas they produce can speed up the fruits ripening, so be sure to keep away from other fruits and veggies.
Peas: Snow & Snap
Harvest bumpy pods around 3 weeks after flowering. Harvesting daily keeps the plants producing. Cut the pods off or pull gently.
It’s best to cook and eat peas quickly upon harvesting for best taste. If storing, they will do best if placed in the refrigerator, unwashed for up to 3 – 5 days. Wash before using.
Snap Beans – Whether green or yellow, bush or pole variety, beans can be harvested until first frost.
- Pick when pods are pencil-thick, firm & crisp.
- Cut or pinch pods; be careful to not pull off stems.
- Harvest all pods to keep plants producing.
Store unwashed beans in a cool place such as the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Bell Peppers – are ready to harvest when large enough to use. They can be green, but the yellow/red/purple peppers are riper and have better flavor. Cut from the plant with about 1/2″ of stem left attached. As flavor is personal preference, pick to your desired color and size.
- Sweet Peppers – Mature around 55 days after transplanting. These will be a variety of colors; orange, yellow, green and red.
- Hot Peppers can take up to 150 days to reach full maturity. Jalapeños are ready to pick when they are a dark green color. Anaheim, Tabasco, Serrano and Cayenne, are ready after they’ve changed colors from green to red or orange.
- Habanero Peppers can be harvested green or red. They have reached their full color once red. The longer they stay on the vine to ripen, the hotter ad more flavorful they will be.
As mentioned earlier, some plants grow more once harvested. This is true for peppers. Harvesting your peppers will encourage new peppers to grow. Be careful handling hot peppers! The capsaicin that is found more concentrated in the seeds, veins and ribs can be very hot!
Peppers can be stored on a counter for a day or two. If not eaten quickly, place in the crisper. If storing in the refrigerator, place in a perforated bag for up to 2 weeks.
Harvest onions when the bulbs flatten, tops become yellow and the leaves begin to fall over. Pull the onions and lay them in the garden for a day or two. If the weather is rainy or moist, lay them on a covered porch or at room temperature in a garage, mudroom or laundry room. Leave them out for 2-4 weeks, in a single layer apart from one another.
The leaves will dry and fall off while the skin around the onion will become like paper. Trim the roots off the bottom and the leaves, careful not to cut the onion itself. A good rule of thumb they are ready is when “necks” are tight and scales dry.
Mild onions such as the sweeter varieties do not last as long as the more pungent varieties. Store sweet onions in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Leaving them out will maintain their flavor. Their skin is softer and delicate than yellow, white and red onions.
Pungent onions should be stored in a cool dark place for up to 4 months.