It’s that time of year again! Late summer and early fall is prime time for fresh vegetables in the garden. If you were lucky enough to grow some of the good stuff in your little spot this year, here are some easy tips to help you harvest vegetables at the right time for the best flavor, nutrition and texture.
Beans are a crop that should be harvested every other day as they continue to produce new beans. Pick when the beans are just under the maximum size for their type, and always pick late in the day, never in the morning. Picking beans when there is dew still present encourages mildew diseases.
Corn is ready when the silks start to turn brown but aren’t dried up yet. Kernels should be filled with a milky white juice if you cut one open. Corn starts to lose it’s sweetness as soon as it’s picked, so try to pick right before cooking.
Harvest cucumbers as soon as they are the mature size for their type. If you allow them to grow large, they will become bitter. Harvest often to stimulate the plant to produce more, at least every couple of days. You’ll be amazed on the difference it makes when you learn the proper times to harvest vegetables.
Eggplant should be harvested when grown to mature size, and are smooth and shiny. If the seeds inside are dark, they were harvested late.
Cut back most herbs often to keep them from blooming, and dry any herbs you cannot use right away. You can also freeze herbs as well. Follow this tutorial for instructions.
Cantaloupes: Pick when they are heavy and tan-colored with a slight yellowish cast. When ripe, a cantaloupe’s netting becomes harder and raised, and a crack forms around the stem where it touches the fruit. The melons should slip easily off the vines with a quick pull, but should not have already fallen off. The fruits get slightly softer at the bottom end and they smell fragrant.
Watermelons develop a dull green cast and have a light patch at the bottom that changes from green to light yellow when mature. Also, the leaf on the tendril nearest the fruit turns brown and withers. The skin should be hard–difficult to pierce with a fingernail. Some people say they can knock on a melon to detect a perfect hollow tone.
Pumpkins and Winter Squash
When the shell has developed it’s color and the rind cannot be pierced with a fingernail, they are ready. Cut 2-3 inch stem and allow to ripen in the field for 10 days. Store in a cool place.
Summer squash is another one that most gardeners let grow too large…bigger is not always better! Larger fruits get seedy and watery, so pick when about 6 inches long. Round varieties can be picked at 3-4 inches.
Peppers taste best when allowed to fully color before picking.
Tomatoes are best when fully ripened to a deep color in the sun, but you can pick them early if you are having issues with cracking or cold nights. Do not ripen in the frig, on a counter is best.
Learning to harvest vegetables at the right time helps them have better flavor and greater levels of nutrients. And let’s face it, it gives us bragging rights around the neighborhood as well!