Harvesting Vegetables and Fruits
- - To Reap What You Sow!!
People greet harvest time with mixed feelings. The joy of gathering a bountiful
harvest is certainly a joyful, and most gratifying experience. There is also
a small sense of sadness, as we reach the end of a gardening season that
brought new learnings and much satisfaction. Next spring feels a really long
ways away. And indeed, that "just around the corner" feeling will have to
wait until January, when seed catalogs arrive in the mail!
From a flavor and texture standpoint, most fruits and vegetables are at their
best when they are still young. Most can be picked when small, and help to
thin out the harvest, as well as to extend it. In addition, many fruits are
best picked before they fully ripen. This helps to avoid damage during transit,
and to last longer during storage. Peaches are a good example, as they
are best picked when still hard or firm. They ripen to a soft and sweet tasting
treat, if left out on a counter for a few days. If you pick peaches when
they are ripe, they will keep for only a few days, and are easily bruised.
While we often think about harvesting in the fall, harvesting vegetables
and fruits goes on all season long. It begins with the first asparagus spears,
progressing on to early fruits and vegetables, and all the way to pumpkin
Let 's focus on the fall harvest, and things you can do to prolong the harvest,
as well as properly store and keep it in good condition. Note that many flowers,
fruits and vegetables have specific peak harvest times and storage methods.
Make sure to read further on each specific one as needed.
Keys to Successful Long Term Vegetable Storage:
One recent spring day, a neighbor of mine walked over to visit me, as I was
planting vegetables for an early crop. He wanted to show me (as in show off)
what was in a box that he was carrying. It was one quarter full of small,
yellow tomatoes. Most of them were in good shape! He had stored these tomatoes
from late September to mid April, and had been eating fresh tomatoes all
winter! Granted, this was a long keeper variety. But, the point is, vegetables
under the right conditions can last for quite a while. Here are some pointers
to maximize the storage times for your crop:
Know when to pick your fruits and vegetables: Most vegetables should
be picked before they peak. Tomatoes and peppers are a good examples. They
will slowly ripen off the vine. Some vegetables need to "cure", or ripen
and harden before storing. A good example of this is pumpkins and gourds.
Clean and sort: Prior to storing vegetables, wash thoroughly with
water. Remove any that are damaged, have soft spots, or holes in them. The
old saying "one bad apple spoils the whole bushel" is quite true.
Eliminate bacteria: Bacteria is what spoils fruit and vegetables in
long term storage. After washing them, rinse them in a light solution of
chlorine and water. This is works well for winter squash, pumpkins, tomatoes,
peppers , other vegetables that have a hard skin. Use one part chlorine to
twenty parts water. Let them dry thoroughly before putting them away. Fruits
and root crops do not usually need this extra protection. It is not recommended
for thin skinned vegetables, leaf crops or others with a short shelf life.
Spread them Out: When putting fruits and vegetables away for long
term storage, do not pile them high and together in one big container. Several
smaller containers are best. Keep them from touching each other, if possible.
If one does go bad, the bacteria or fungus has a harder time spreading if
the fruit is separated.
Optimal storage conditions: Most fruits and vegetables store longer
if kept in cool, dry conditions. Many will last for months under the ideal
conditions. Cold storage is used for many crops, and remain fresh for use
weeks and months later. Each fruit or vegetable may have a different ideal
temperature. Local cold storage companies will know the proper humidity and
A few vegetables will keep for several months out of the refrigerator. These
include potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squashes. For home storage, the
general rule of thumb is cool, dry and dark conditions are the best.
Harvesting Vegetables This is a great guide to properly
determine the ideal harvest time for each vegetable.
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