Your garden is bursting with ripe veggies, nuts and fruit! Time to celebrate all the months of weeding, watering and wishing for perfect produce! Here’s how to get organized for harvest time, from the right tools, to the best picking and storage options.
Gather the tools for the job
- Pruning shears or scissors
- Spade, shovel or fork
- Sharp knife
- A nut gatherer
- Baskets to put your produce in
Head out to your veggie patch every day to pick what’s ripe ‘n ready, which sends a signal to the plant to produce more. Remove rotting fruit or yellow leaves right away so that your plant won’t continue putting its energy into useless parts you can’t consume!
Bigger is not always better! Produce is generally yummiest when it’s smaller in size. For example, zucchini longer than six inches is tough and gritty, although it’s fine for baking.
If a tomato comes right off its stem, it’s probably fully ripe. Did you know that ripe fruit sinks in water? If you accidentally snap off a green one, store it at room temperature wrapped in newspaper.
Pick peppers when they’re firm, full-sized and still green, or wait until they turn red, yellow, or orange.
Greens can be harvested when leaves are young and about five inches long. Cut outside leaves with scissors – don’t pull up the whole plant! This way, you can come back and get more in several days.
Wait until green bean pods are fully dry and pick them when they’re slightly smaller so your vine will continue producing!
Pick peas when they’re going to be on your dinner menu! Use your taste buds to be sure the pod is crunchy.
This one’s easy: Pick cukes anytime! Small ones – between five and eight inches long – are more tender with fewer seeds, great for eating plain or in a salad. Remember to cut your cucumbers from the vine instead of pulling them off!
Root vegetables (carrots, radishes, beets, turnips)
Read your seed packet to see when your variety of veggie should be ready. Pull one up gently to check its size: younger, smaller ones are more tender. Want to harvest right up until Thanksgiving? Protect them from freezing by laying a thick layer of mulch or leaves over top.
Harvest while florets are tight and dark green, before flowers begin to open.
Pick off the outer leaves all season! If you planted in the spring, you’ll have greens until the first frost.
Where will you put all this produce? Different vegetables require various storage conditions. Some veggies and fruit – tomatoes, peppers, peaches and plums – just need to ripen in peace right on your counter!
A dark, cool basement, garage or root cellar is perfect for cabbage and root vegetables. Lettuce, peas, corn, cauliflower, and summer squash can sit in the fridge in ventilated bags with moistened paper towels inside.
To lock in flavor and nutrients, try blanching fresh fruit and veggies in boiling water, and then freezing them.