Is it just us, or do you want to give yourself slow claps each time you successfully harvest your own vegetables? Researching when and how to best harvest your bounty is just as important as researching about growing. While this post pertains to summer vegetables, all vegetables benefit from frequent checks every few days to harvest, as the best and longest harvest season comes from this practice. Happy harvesting!
When: First, verify the ideal length of the cucumber variety you are growing. Most cucumbers are 1.5- 2 inches across, and anywhere from 6-8 inches long. Cucumbers taste best when harvested slightly immature, when their spines are soft for plucking and the seeds have not grown too large and hard.
How: Remove any fruit that is stunted or over ripe, as this will help the plant focus its energy on the fruit worth harvesting. Using gardening shears or pruners, remove the cucumber leaving ¼ inch of the stem on the fruit. Never twist or pull the fruit off the vine, and wear long sleeves and gloves to avoid prickles.
When: Eggplants also differ in shapes and sizes depending on variety. A good rule of thumb to follow is that eggplants taste best when they are shiny, firm, and brightly colored. They start to lose flavor once they turn a brownish, dull color.
How: Where long sleeves and gloves to avoid prickles, and *very gently* cut the stem leaving ¼ inch to avoid bruising this sensitive fruit. Frequent harvesting means a better yield, so be sure to keep an eye on this plant in particular.
Hot and Sweet Peppers
When: Hot peppers can be harvested as needed, keeping in mind that the green peppers are usually quite spicy, and the colorful, mature peppers are mostly mild. To harvest sweet peppers, leave them on the stem until they turn red or yellow, and also are rounded-out and firm to the touch. If it’s late in the season, some gardeners enjoy harvesting the entire plant and drying it in a warm and well-ventilated space.
How: It might look simple to pluck the pepper off, but pepper plants require a gentle hand because of the delicate branches. Use pruners or a sharp knife and remove the pepper. Wash your hands immediately, and do not touch your eyes or mouth (we repeat, do not touch your eyes or mouth, we’ve been down that road!), or you may suffer a burn.
When: Winter and Summer squash follow different harvesting rules – so jot this down as a reminder! Winter squash is harvested when the fruit is mature, and a fingernail does not leave a dent in the skin. However, summer squash is meant to be harvested at about 6 inches when the fruit is still tender and a fingernail is able to leave an indentation.
How: Use gardening shears and cut the summer squash squash near the top of the fruit, or simply grab the squash from the bottom and gently lift up until you hear a snapping sound. Once you hear the snap, twist the plant left or right and the squash should be successfully harvested.
When: Tomatoes are best harvested in the late summer, when fruits are in a mature green stage and just turning a blush red. If you harvest too late, the tomato could lose its wonderful flavor and overall essence, but there are gardeners that will wait until the tomato is completely red before plucking. Once harvested in the green stage, the tomato will emit gas and will ripen into a vibrant red on its own.
How: Watch the bottom of the fruit when you know that harvest time is close, and gently squeeze the tomato to test its firmness. With one hand on the stem and another on the fruit, grab the fruit gently and firmly, and break the stem from the calyx (top of the fruit). Store fruit in a warm, dry place to await ripening.
***Friends, which vegetables are you harvesting this summer? ***
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