Seeding, sowing and growing, many hours of hard work. You’ve been nurturing your plants for weeks and want to get the best rewards from your efforts.
Why is it Important to Harvest at the Right Time?
- You will have tastier fruits and vegetables
- Your crops will be more attractive
- You will receive more nutrients from your crop
- You will prevent problems from developing in your garden when birds, insects and diseases are attracted to overripe plants
How can I tell when my Crop is ready to be Harvested?
Your own instinct will go a long way, especially with fruit. Check your crop for size and color, give it a light squeeze to test the firmness, smell to see if the fruity aroma has developed, and lastly taste one. Now you will know for sure! Vegetables are a little different and you want to be sure to pick them when their taste and nutrition is at it’s best. It is generally best to harvest in the morning after the dew has dried. Continue to pick every day, when you stop picking your plants will stop producing. Some crops are even best harvested before they are totally matured, such as salad greens. Leafy greens tend to get bitter as they age and start going to seed. Don’t forget to harvest when you are thinning, tiny carrots and beets are delicious snacks.
Harvest raspberries when berries are darker colored and even colored all over. Each berry should part from the plant with the slightest pull. Pick at least twice a week and cores will stay on the stem.
Harvest strawberries when berries have an even, bright red color and are plump and firm. There should be no green on the tips. Pinch or snip the stem. Leave the green caps on until you use them.
Harvest grapes when the fruit is a good rich color and will come off the vine easily by cutting the clump off the vine with a sharp knife. The stems will turn brown and start to shrivel. Best to pick on a dry day. Grapes with seeds will have brown seeds. To reach their best flavor grapes must ripen on the vine.
This is harder to read. Harvest watermelons when the tendrils have turned brown and are starting to shrivel. Where the melon touches the ground it should be a gold, or orange color, and the melon itself will produce a dull sound when you tap on it. If you hear a ‘ping’ sound it’s not ready.
Harvest round radishes when they have grown about 1 inch across, are firm and have bright color. Left too long they will become woody and bitter.
Harvest lettuce by cutting the leaves one at a time starting from the outside of the plant. Young, soft leaves will taste the best. This will also encourage new leaves to form. If left too long, the leaves will elongate and taste bitter. You can also chop the whole plant off an inch above the soil and let it regrow.
Harvest spinach by breaking off the outer leaves when they are dark green, crisp and tender.
SUGAR SNAP PEAS
Harvest peas once the pods have filled out but before the pods turn to yellow. This is usually about 3 weeks after flowering. If left too long the sugar will turn to starch. Note that pea vines produce from the bottom up. The skin on the pod should also be smooth.
Harvest tomatoes once they are round, plump, firm and in full color. Store stem side up on the counter.
Harvest beets when they are on the small to medium size in growth. Simply pull them out of the ground by hand. Don’t forget the greens. Pick about 1/3 of the leaves from each plant. In warmer climates your beans can be left in the ground all winter and pulled as needed.
Harvest carrots when small or medium sized. Large carrots become woody. Once pulled from the ground cut off all the green leaves leaving about 1 to 2 inches to help keep the carrot sweet.
Harvest cabbage by cutting from the stalk with a clean, sharp knife when heads are fully formed and firm. Leave the large outer leaves.
Harvest corn when the silk begins to turn brown and dry. When you pierce a kernel with your fingernail it should release a milky juice. Also, the tip should feel round, not pointed.
I always find peppers confusing. All peppers start out green, then turn color if they are orange, yellow or some other non-green type. Harvest peppers when their color has matured. Green peppers should be picked when they are green, and will turn red if left too long. Remove your peppers with clippers rather tan pulling and damaging the stem.
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