When it comes to harvesting, it seems like a fairly easy task. “Pick it when it’s ripe!!” But we seem to have some trouble handling it. Most of what I see in the garden is neglecting to harvest until it’s too late. It may have nothing to do with not knowing when to do it, but rather finding the time and making the effort to get out to the Garden. Remember, the Harvest Group will do it for you if we see that you’re neglecting your harvest.
If you attended my “Seasons of Gardening” presentation that I gave last year, you know that there’s some math involved in calculating when to plant for successful fall crops. (If you missed the presentation, or have short term memory loss, along with me, the presentation is on our website at https://www.greeneacres.org/2019/02/the-seasons-of-gardening/. The Farmer’s Almanac has cleverly done the math for us and created a table based on our first and last frost dates. You can find it here: https://www.greeneacres.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/almanac.com-Planting-Calendar-for-Broadview-Heights-OH.pdf. Remember, fall planting is really a big experiment for many of us – we aren’t used to doing fall gardening. However, we’ve had some fairly good, long autumns in the past few years. Try it!
Here are some harvesting guidelines and tips:
- Ripeness is indicated by changes in size, color,
- Tomatoes turn from green to red (or yellow) and easily detach from the vine when they mature.
- The skins of peas, eggplants, squash get glossy as they fully mature
- Root vegetables tend to push up from ground…watch their shoulders as a clue to tell how big they are underground.
- Garlic needs to be dug when the bottom five or so leaves begin to dry
- Vegetative crops (those grown for their leaves or stems or roots): Pick while young and tender.
- Fruit crops: most should be left on the plant until fully ripe. However, beans, cucumbers, eggplants, summer squash all taste a bit better when they are slightly immature. Tomatoes can be picked before full maturity especially if you’re in a harvest race with the critters. They can ripen further on your kitchen window sill.
- Potatoes or peppers can be harvested either immature or fully ripe and will taste differently depending on which you choose.
- Some vegetables are forgiving – if you delay harvesting onions, winter squash or potatoes an extra week won’t matter that much. Summer squash is not forgiving! Waiting an extra day or two may result in overripeness (not to mention giant fruits!).
- Some vegetables become sweeter after a frost. Plan on harvesting brussels sprouts, kale, and parsnips later in the season.
- Watch the weather with respect to harvesting: a heavy rainfall can dilute flavor or crack the produce. Drought can produce bitterness, especially in cucumbers.
- Remember these harvesting how-to
- Be gentle. Any bruises or scrapes will reduce storage life
- Don’t harvest when plants are wet to avoid disease spread.
- Use shears or a knife with veggies that have tough or brittle stems
- Leave tops on root crops (except for garlic)
- Harvest before noon when sugar content is highest,
- Cool the produce immediately (except for tomatoes, garlic, onions and basil)
- Only wash produce right when you’re ready to use it.
I hope some of this helps reinforce how important it is to get to the end of the game: THE HARVEST. If you have any questions or need something else for your gardening experiment, please let me know.