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Jul 28, 2016
Finally! It’s harvest season
Burpee  Edible Gardening Team Members

The fruits of your labor should be ripening all over your garden space now. From red, juicy tomatoes to crisp bush beans – to the basketful of zucchini that continues to amaze you – your efforts have paid off and now it’s time to reap your reward. Harvest season is such a joy!

However, if you’re still unsure when or how to pick the perfect pepper, or if you have questions on what should happen next, then this week’s blog is for you. Below are some tips and advice on how to harvest your bounty.

Tomatoes can be harvested right when they begin to show color; they’ll continue to ripen on your kitchen counter. However, the closer you can get to vine-ripened the better the flavor will be. Fresh ripe tomatoes should never be stored in the refrigerator. The cold temperature will render them tasteless and begin to turn their juicy tenderness to mush. Instead, store them for 2 to 3 days on your counter or away from direct sunlight until ready to use.

Quick Tip: To hasten the coloring process, place your harvested tomatoes in a paper bag stem end up. Punch a few holes into the bag and fold the top over. Depending on how under-ripe they are, tomatoes may take 1 to 5 days to ripen. Check on them daily.

Cukes are tender and tastiest when harvested young, before their seeds are fully developed. Slicing varieties are generally ready for harvest when about 6 to 8 in. (15 to 20 cm) long. Pickling types are slightly smaller at 3 to 5 in. (7 to 12 cm). Forage into the vine for any fruit – don’t let them overripen on the plant! That’s not good eats.

Quick Tip: Harvest cucumbers in the early morning before the sun hits them for good flavor and texture. Also, about 30 to 40 days before the first expected frost, pinch off all the blossoms to encourage the plant to bring the remaining fruits to maturity, so you can get a final harvest before the frost takes them.

You can harvest peppers young, but their flavor doesn’t fully develop until maturity. This often creates a dilemma for the home gardener. Frequent harvesting increases yields, but often at the sacrifice of flavor. It’s a choice you’ll have to make if you haven’t planted more than a few plants. As for color: The traditional bell pepper can be harvested green, even though most varieties will mature red, orange or yellow.

Quick Tip: Refrain from tugging on the fruit when you’re picking. This could break off a branch or even uproot the entire plant. Use sharp garden pruners or scissors to cut the tough stem.

We love beans! They’re so easy to sow, grow and pick. We hope you’ve planted a few plants over the course of the summer for an ongoing, staggered harvest. They can be picked at any size as long as the pods are firm and crisp.

Quick Tip: Be sure to pick frequently to ensure your crop keeps producing.

Harvest size depends on your variety choice. In general, though, pick the fruits when they are still glossy and 6 to 8 in. (15 to 20 cm) long for traditional-sized eggplant, 2 to 3 in. (5 to 7 cm) long for mini-size eggplant. Use a knife or pruning shears rather than breaking or twisting the stems. Leave the large (usually green) stem attached to the fruit.

Quick Tip: Many eggplant varieties have small prickly thorns on the stem, so exercise caution or wear gloves when harvesting.

If you’re growing any melons this season, have patience. They need to ripen fully on the vine as they do not ripen well after they are harvested. To know when to pick, trust your nose! Melons develop a wonderful fragrance when they are ready to pick – you can't miss it. The fruit should slip easily from the vine and the blossom end should feel soft to the touch.

Quick Tip: Once you’ve harvested them, your melons will last a week or more in the refrigerator.

Last but certainly not least is the Summer squash or zucchini. You’ve probably already picked plenty from your garden – maybe even left several at your neighbor’s front door. And as you may have discovered, zucchini is tastiest when harvested young before the seeds fully develop. The skin should still be soft enough to pierce with your thumbnail. Cut the fruits from the vine carefully using pruners about an inch above the fruit. Don’t twist or yank as you could rip the skin or damage the plant. Regular picking will keep your plant producing all season long – like a squash assembly line!

Quick Tip: If you like stuffed zucchini, allow the plants to grow to about 8 inches (20 cm) long.

More Harvest and Storage instructions can be found on all of our vegetable pages. Search through our listing for the ones you’re growing this season.

And a quick shout out to our Recipes page! Don’t let your harvest whither on the kitchen counter – cook, can, bake, and grill to your heart’s content. Be sure to share your own recipes with our team on social media. Tag your photos and comments @BurpeeHG on Twitter and Instagram.

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