Pro Tips from Olle Garden Bed for Harvesting Your Garden's Vegetables
Should you choose to grow a few fruits and vegetables in your garden, you'll find that most of them can tell us precisely when they're ripe for picking. But it takes a patient person to learn how to recognize the beginning and end of each vegetable's optimal maturity time. Even experienced gardeners have to repeatedly check fruits and vegetables before, during, and after harvest to discern all the subtle changes leading up to the ideal pick. The following content also has some reference value for raised garden beds.
There are many factors that affect the flavor of vegetables. Some common ones include seed variety, soil type, temperature, season, amount of water, sunlight and whether they are grown outdoors or in a greenhouse. At harvest time though the most important things to consider are the time of day and ripeness. Below you will find tips on how to pick your veggies to maximize the flavor and quality.
In the summer, the farmers at our local market get up before sunrise and start picking as soon as there is enough light to see. Now I'm not a big fan of early birds, but it's true that, with a few exceptions, vegetables are best harvested in the cooler mornings so they stay crisp and stored longer. If harvested too late, they limp and wither quickly, evaporating much of their water and absorbing the midday heat. This is especially important for leafy greens such as lettuce and beets and fresh herbs such as parsley and basil. It also works for crunchy fruit vegetables like peas, and any vegetable in the cabbage family like broccoli and radishes.
If the morning harvest doesn't fit your schedule or lifestyle, pick it in the evening after the sun's heat begins to fade. Other fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, are less sensitive to wilt and can therefore be picked later in the day. The same goes for root vegetables like carrots, but be sure to get them out of the sun and into the freezer quickly, especially if the weather is warm.
The ripeness test involves all the senses: from tapping and smelling the melon to piercing the kernels of corn and recognizing the perfect fullness of peas! With enough practice and plenty of tasting, you'll find that your hands learn to find the perfect thickness of beans on their own.
Tips for Harvesting
Beets: Pick baby beets 1 1/2 inches in diameter and let some grow larger. To get the best flavor in hot weather, keep the beets well watered and don't leave them in the ground for too long, lest they become pith or woody.
Broccoli: Harvest broccoli in the morning, when the head is large and fully developed. Buds should be closed; They eventually begin to swell and open into yellow flowers, but if you wait until then, your broccoli will become tough and woody. Cut off about half of the plant's stem to promote continued production of side branches. Keep plants well watered to prevent them from developing a bitter or sulfurous taste. The best broccoli is produced in cool weather.
Carrots: Depending on the variety, pull the carrots after they have developed a rich orange or yellow color. If the tops of your carrots break off when you pull them, try loosening the soil with a digging fork first. Baby carrots can be picked when 1/2 inch thick. Pick round carrots when they are 1 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Beet: Harvest the outer leaves of beet when the plant is firm and mature. Be sure to leave four to six leaves so the plant can continue to grow and produce more leaves throughout the summer. Beets also overwinter in mild areas where the ground does not freeze.
Corn: Corn is ready when the ears are rounded at the base and the silk at the top is dark brown but not yet dry. Peel off your ears to expose the cob, then Pierce the core with your fingernail. If the kernels are fat and the juice is milky white, the ears are ready to eat. For best results, pick and shelled ears of corn near the time you want to eat, sugar enhanced varieties extend their sweetness - handy if you can't eat all the ripe corn at once!
Cucumbers: Harvest English and Middle Eastern cucumbers when they reach a certain size with smooth, shiny skin and small seeds. Don't wait too long - the bigger the cucumber, the better - and pick it at least every other day, as overripe cucumbers can become bitter and unpleasantly dirty. Frequent picking also increases the production of new fruit. When lemon cucumbers are harvested, they are light green with only a lemon blush - if you wait until they turn bright yellow, their taste is less crunchy and too dirty.
Eggplant: Pick eggplant when it has reached a certain size and is smooth and shiny. They taste most delicate and least bitter when they are still young, before the skin hardens and the seeds ripen and turn black inside. To avoid damaging fragile plants, be sure to cut the fruit from the branch rather than trying to pull the eggplant.
Fennel: Cut the bulb fennel at the soil level when the base of the bulb has become knobby and rounded and is about 3/4 the size of a tennis ball or larger. After harvesting each bulb, cut the fern leaves onto the stem, then thinly slice the succulent bulbs and use fresh or cooked ones.
Salad and sauteed vegetables: Mixed vegetables, such as mesclun salad, stir-fry or lettuce mixture, can be picked as a small 2-inch thinner. Otherwise, use the "cut and reappear" method: Wait until the seedlings are only 4-7 inches tall: then use scissors to cut through the entire bed for harvesting, leaving the bottom 1 to 2 inches of plants in the soil. Water well and fertilize lightly. The cut crown of the plant will regrow with successive harvests. These mixed vegetables sometimes taste bitter after several cuttings, especially in very hot weather, so they are sown consecutively every few weeks to provide a continuous supply of tender young leaves. Spicy leaves, such as arugula, are mildest in cooler spring or fall weather.
Endive and Escarole: Plant these vegetables in mid to late summer for a fall harvest. Cut off the entire head of fennel and conker when they begin to fill the center with shallower leaves. Some gardeners tie the outer leaves around the center or with rubber bands and keep them closed for about a week to whiten and sweeten the inner leaves. The cold weather makes these leafy greens crunchy, sweet and juicy.
Radicchio: Cut the inside heads of the chicory in the late fall, and then before the hard frosts, when they are firm, round and dark red and white. If you pick the leaves too early when they are still red and green, they will taste bitter.
Kale: When the plant is firm and mature, you can start picking the outer leaves of kale. Be sure to leave seven or eight crowns for regrowth after harvest.
Leeks: Harvest young leeks when they are about 1/2-1 inch thick or continue to thicken them. Make sure you pick them before they start sending out their flowering stems, or they'll be too hard to eat. Allow leeks to weed, water and fertilize, and climb the soil around the base to form longer, bleached white trunks, which are more delicate than the tougher green upper leaves.
Lettuce: Pick lettuce in the cool of the morning, while you can harvest it as a delicate tender green or as a crisp, rich head. To harvest through the "cut and come again" method, cut with scissors when the lettuce reaches about 4-5 inches high to about 2 inches above the soil line. Water well and fertilize lightly to enjoy a few extra cuts. Harvest the whole head of lettuce when it begins to fill in the center, but before they begin to elongate in the center and "bolt" (send flower stems), at this point they will taste bitter.
Melons: Melon perfection is so ephemeral that finding a perfectly ripe melon every time is an art form. Pay close attention when picking so that you know what factors indicate the most delicious fruit. If you're always having trouble growing delicious melons in your area, your climate may be too cool. Plant them on black plastic or rock walls and try different varieties to find the best one for your area.
Cantaloupe: Choose when they are thick and tan with a yellowish tinge. After ripening, the cantaloupe's net becomes harder and raised, and cracks form around the stem where it comes into contact with the fruit. The melon should slide off the vine easily, but should not have fallen off. The fruit is slightly soft at the bottom and smells nice.
When the honeydew is ready, there should be a slight yellow blush on the ivory skin. They also soften slightly at the end of the flower. Unlike musk, honeydew does not slip off the stem and must therefore be cut from the vine.
Gallia melon turns from green to gold on the surface of the fruit and smells delicious.
Watermelons are dark green with light patches on the underside, changing from green to light yellow as they mature. In addition, the leaves on the tendrils closest to the fruit turn brown and wither. The skin should be firm -- hard to Pierce with your nails. Some people say they can tap the melon to detect the perfect hollow tone.
Onions: Pick spring Onions when they are 10-12 inches tall. For bulk storage, wait until about half of the shaved onion begins to die and drop. Knock over the rest of the tops and leave them on the ground for another week. Harvest and store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. When the skin and top are completely dry, cut off the top and shorten the roots.
Peas Pick peas at least every other day in the morning for maximum harvest and the crispest texture.
Shelled peas: Pick them when the pods are round and the peas are filling the pods - but before they get too big and hard.
Peas: Wait until the flat edible pods start to get round, plump and juicy -- but before the peas inside get too big and hard. You will notice that if the pods are picked too early and flat, the taste of the pods will not be sweet enough.
Snow peas: Choose them when the pods are larger but still flat.
Peppers: Bell peppers have a much sweeter flavor and are most nutrient-rich when they are allowed to go from fully colored green to glowing red, orange or yellow on the vine, depending on the variety. If your growing season is too short for the peppers to fully ripen, pick the last green peppers as late as possible and keep them in the shade for coloring and check them often for rot. Chile peppers also produce a full peppery and fruity flavor when fully colored, but once they reach a certain size, they can harvest a shiny green color.
Squash: Harvest when the fruit is dark orange and the shell is too hard to Pierce with a fingernail
The melon. Cut a 2- to 3-inch stem and cure for 10 days in the sun or in a warm, dry room (not exposed to frost) and store in a cool, dry place at about 50 degrees.
Summer squash: When it comes to summer squash, the smaller the better. The longer the fruit sits on the vine, the harder it will be on the outside and the dirtier and watery it will be on the inside. Even the keenest zucchini bread baker might not want to grate and freeze too much fruit the size of a baseball bat! So choose zucchini that are no larger than 6 or 7 inches. Choose a Patty pan pumpkin at 2-3 inches, a round zucchini at 3-4 inches, and a longer trombone pumpkin at 12-14 inches.
Wax gourd: Choose wax gourd when the skin is very dark and the shells have become so hard that you cannot Pierce them with your nails. Cut a 2- to 3-inch stem and cure for 10 days in the sun or in a very warm room (not exposed to frost) and store in a cool, dry place at about 50 degrees. Some varieties that are not so well stored, such as acorn squash, should be eaten in the fall; The flavor and texture of many other varieties (such as capocha and walnut) are improved in storage.
Spinach: Spinach grows best in cool weather. To harvest through the "cut and come again" method, cut young spinach when it is about 5-6 inches tall to about 1 inch above the soil line and the plant will regrow for another cut. Alternatively, you can begin harvesting outer leaves as soon as the plant has at least 5-6 full-size leaves, always leaving at least 4 to 5 leaves on the plant so that it can regenerate easily. By harvesting frequently using one of these methods, you will extend the time the plant produces leaves before sending out flower stems and "bolts."
Tomatoes: For the best sun-ripened flavor, choose tomatoes when they are rich in color and have no traces of green on the skin. But if you are experiencing alternating wet and dry weather and are concerned about cracking thin-skinned heirlooms, you can pick them when they are just turning red and allow them to ripen indoors (rather than in the refrigerator). Tomatoes taste best where the days and nights are warm - otherwise the delicious variety will taste flat in years when the nights are cool or the sun refuses to shine! For optimal flavor and texture, do not store ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator