Posted: July 29, 2012
All the work will bring you fresh grown, hand-picked vegetables of your choosing, right when you want them. Assuming they are ready though. One of the advantages of having your own vegetable garden is you can harvest them when they are the optimal flavor. So how do you know?
Less is more:
The less you handle the plants and the crops the better they will be. Be careful not to step on vines or break stems, through which diseases and insects can attack the plant. Handle any harvest with care. Bruises, nicks, and cuts affect quality and storage capability. Avoid working in the garden when it is wet. Some diseases are waterborne and are spread through incidental contact, water is easy transferred by shoes, clothing, and pets.
Size doesn’t always matter:
Color, firmness, and texture are indicators of whether a crop is ready or not, size being a lessor factor. Look for uniform color on tomatoes, and red peppers. Preference is given to useable size on green peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce. Look for full color and a bright shiny finish on eggplants.
Vegetable growing is not an exact science, so other factors may determine whether a crop is ready or not. Some are simple preferences. Lima beans can be picked in the immature stage if you like them tender; for meatier lima beans wait until the pods are full but not yellow. Cantaloupes are ready when the stem slips easily from the vine, the surface netting turns beige, or the blossom end is soft and sweet-smelling. Watermelon are ripe when the melon gives a ringing metallic sound as it is being thumped with your fingers. A hollow thud means it is not ready. Horseradish, turnips, some beets and carrots do much better after a frost.
Once you have picked your bounty, use the vegetables as quickly as possible. Keep them in a cool, dark, but well ventilated space. And make sure they are protected from rodents. If you refrigerate the vegetables, use a perforated plastic bag. Regular storage bags trap moisture and condensation and will hasten the degradation of the vegetables.
For more information on harvest times, please contact the Penn State Master Gardeners in Lackawanna County at 570-963-6842 or email LackawannaMG@psu.edu and request a free copy of “Harvesting Home Garden Vegetables”
Master Gardener Coordinator
Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lackawanna County