Sheaves of corn, hay rides and pumpkin patches are popping up on roadsides. Many things in the garden are ready to harvest. But when in the growth cycle is the best time? It depends on the plant family but here are some general guidelines:
The best time of day to harvest is early morning, just after the dew has dried. Your veggies will be cooler and have a higher water content, thus a crisper texture than later on when its warmer.
Crops that you grow for their leaves, stems, or roots should be harvested when they are young, tender and immature (before flowering). Basil, broccoli, lettuce, and radishes are good examples. You’ve been harvesting these early and often, all summer right? It’s cut and come again with most.
Bulb crops (onions, garlic) and potatoes should be harvested when the tops begin dying back and have fallen over.
Vegetables which are technically fruits such as tomatoes, summer squash, snap beans, and eggplant should be allowed to ripen fully on the plant.
But wait, beans are not a fruit – only in that old song (“Beans, beans the magical fruit…”), right?
Wrong. Botanically speaking beans are a fruit. The difference between fruits and vegetables lies in the part of the plant we eat. Fruits come from the ripened ovary of a flowering plant. What we eat is the fleshy covering around and sometimes including the seed(s).
Vegetables come from the other edible parts of the plant: the roots, stem, and leaves. But classification of plants as vegetables is determined mostly by custom and usage. So beans are a fruit but we call them a vegetable.
Pick the fruit of tomatoes and eggplant when they are ripe. You’ll know by their size and color.
Pick the fruit of summer squashes and beans a little less ripe and more tender. We’ve all found a mega zuch that lay hidden under a leaf too long. It may be technically ripe but it’s lost some flavor getting so big. Beans get tougher as they ripen so when growing for fresh eating, pick early and often. It will keep them coming longer too. Hopefully you are on your second or third round of beans by now! They are ideal succession crops.
Pick a peck of peppers whenever you want to cook them up or pickle them. They can be eaten at just about any size but they do have more flavor when mature. Size and color will let you know when that is.
Pumpkins and winter squash should not be harvested before they reach maturity, which you can determine by the thumbnail test. A mature pumpkin has a hard rind that resists puncture. Green pumpkins will not develop full color in storage, so be patient and leave them until they are ready. Look at the stem as well. It should be brown.
Enjoy the fall harvest! Soon I’ll do a post with some winter storage tips for your bounty.Some of the info in this post came from OrganicGardeningGuru.com