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When to Harvest. . .

By August 1, 2019December 2nd, 2021No Comments

How do you know when it’s time to harvest your late summer vegetables?

Luckily, we have an entire book about that, called Growing Perfect Vegetables.

If you don’t have the book and you have produce ripening right now that you’re not sure what to do with, here’s a rundown on some common fruits, herbs, and veggies that you’re probably picking right now, how to tell if they’re ripe, and whether you can harvest early (if a cold snap is predicted) and continue to ripen on the counter.

Tomatoes

  • How to know they’re ripe: The color should be a deep hue (the actual color depends on variety). The tomatoes should smell rich and meaty.
  • How to harvest: Gently twist off of the plant.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? Yes, so if you need to harvest early to beat the animals or a frost, go for it!

Peppers

  • Immature bell peppers are almost always green. If you’re growing a red, yellow, or orange pepper, the color should be well developed when it is ripe.

    How to know they’re ripe: Color is also a strong indicator of ripeness. Again, the color depends on the variety. Peppers should be full size for the variety and have thick walls.

  • How to harvest: Use shears to snip the stem from the plant so you don’t yank the plant out of the ground. Wear gloves when harvesting hot peppers.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? No

Okra

  • How to know they’re ripe: You’ll want to pick okra when pods are 2-3 inches long. Any larger and they’ll be stringy.
  • How to harvest: Use shears or a sharp knife to harvest just above the pod cap.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? No, in fact – cook or freeze quickly for best flavor.

Eggplant

  • How to know they’re ripe: You’ll need to know the mature expected size for the variety you’re growing. When it gets close, the skin should be colorful and glossy.
  • How to harvest: Snip eggplant stems with shears about an inch above the top of the fruit.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? No, and they taste best when eaten soon after harvest.

Basil

  • How to know it’s ripe: Harvest basil leaves before the plant flowers.
  • How to harvest: Use kitchen shears to cut stems.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? Basil won’t ripen on the counter, but it will keep in a plastic container for a few days. Do not refrigerate.

Summer Squash

  • Color can help you determine when squash are ripe.

    How to know they’re ripe: Another vegetable where ripeness depends on the type you’re growing. In general, look for the fruit to be the color you’re expecting. Most summer squash tastes better when harvested while it is small, but you want colorful varieties to develop good color.

  • How to harvest: Cut fruits from the vine.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? No, and they have a short shelf life, so use or freeze promptly.

Winter Squash

  • How to know they’re ripe: This also depends on the type of squash you’re growing. Pumpkins are ripe when the rind is hard enough that you can’t easily puncture it with a fingernail. Butternut squash is ripe when the rind is hard and deep tan. Acorn squash is ready when the fruits are deep green, except for the side that touches the ground. It will be orange, rather than yellow.
  • How to harvest: Use a knife or pruners to cut off the vine.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? No, but most winter squashes will store well in cool, dark areas.

Apples

  • How to know they’re ripe: Know when the variety you are growing should ripen. Then feel the apple. Ripe apples are firm but have a slight softness or give.
  • How to harvest: Gently twist from the tree.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? Yes

Grapes

  • Pear ripening on tree

    Color can be an indicator of “harvest time” for pears, but not always. Better to check the stem.

    How to know they’re ripe: Ripe grapes are a deep color, whether red, purple, or green. They will be soft and squash easily between your fingers.

  • How to harvest: Use a knife or pruners to cut the bunch off of the vine.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? No

Pears

  • How to know they’re ripe: Pears actually don’t ripen on the tree. Pick when you can easily remove them from the tree by bending the stem horizontally. If they’re not ready to harvest they won’t break off the tree.
  • How to harvest: Gently twist from the tree.
  • Can they ripen on the counter? Absolutely yes!

Want more info about growing perfect vegetables and fruits? Grab the book: Growing Perfect Vegetables.

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