The hard work in your garden is finally paying off! Vegetables are forming and ripening right before your eyes. Knowing when and how to properly harvest your vegetables is a key step in enjoying your tasty bounty. One thing to remember: Bigger is not always better. Ripening time varies with certain vegetables, as does size and color. It's better to harvest when vegetables are at their peak for flavor and nutrition, not at the vegetable’s largest stage.
So grab a sharp pruning shear and follow the guidelines below to have a successful harvest.
Harvest when pods are almost full size, but before the seeds inside begin to bulge. Beans should be crisp and snap easily. Harvest often to encourage more flowering.
Harvest when skin is shiny and dark purple (may differ on special varieties). Fruits are over-mature when dull in color, soft and seedy. Use caution when harvesting, as stems may have small thorns. Use a sharp blade or pruners – don’t pull.
Pick when firm and bright, dark green. Length depends of use: Sweet pickles 1 1/2 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm); Dills 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm); Slicers 7 to 9 inches (17 to 22 cm). Over-mature fruits are dull in color or yellow and less crisp. Leave a short piece of stem on each fruit. Do not raise vines when harvesting to avoid damaging the plant.
Harvest when fruits are firm, shiny green and baseball size for green bells. If left on the plant for an additional 2-3 weeks, colored cultivars will change from green to the desired yellows and reds. Hot peppers should be harvested when at the ripest color stage with caution to avoid skin and eye irritation.
For canning and juice, pick fruits when firm at full color. When temperatures reach 90 degrees, pick at pink stage and allow to ripen indoors to avoid fruit cracking. Cherry-sized red tomatoes should also be picked if heavy rain is forecasted to avoid burst skins. Before first frost, pick all green tomatoes and store to ripen indoors.
Zucchini & Summer Squash
Harvest when fruit is young and tender. Squash should be 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) long; zucchini 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) long. Rind should be tender enough to puncture with a fingernail.
If you've sown a late-summer lettuce for fall harvest, pick when leaves are at their desired size. Taking the largest first will help thin the row and encourage growth.
Share your favorite harvest photos with us by tagging @BurpeeHG on Twitter and Instagram. Happy Harvesting!
For more vegetable help visit the Burpee “How Do I Grow That” podcasts to learn more about your favorite vegetables.