Harvest Vegetables at the Proper Time

Robert J. Souvestre  |  5/18/2011 2:02:29 AM

Harvest this round Zucchini ‘Eight Ball’ squash when it reaches 3 to 4 inches in diameter and the skin is a solid dark green. This tasty summer squash is best prepared either stuffed, in a casserole, steamed or stir fried.

Harvest vegetables early in the day when produce is cooler. Ripeness and keeping duration is tied to respiration rate. Cool produce will store longer than fruit that has been in the hot sun. Spread the produce under a shade tree or on a table in a shady area to let it cool down before processing or refrigeration.

Time your harvest for peak flavor by following these tips:

Cantaloupe – Fruit should readily slip from the vine, leaving a full moon scar where it detached. Ripe fruit is fragrant with light yellow background color behind the netting.

Watermelon – Roll over to check for a buttery-yellow ground spot, look for brown tendrils opposite the stem on the vine, and thump, listening for a dull thud.

Tomatoes –Leave tomatoes on for as long as possible, harvesting when plump and deep in color.

Peppers – Harvest at any stage desired, color-wise. Pods should be shiny, lobes well formed and fruit should feel firm.

Eggplant – Firmness and shiny skin means ripeness, dull skin means fruit is overripe and will taste bitter.

Cucumbers – Picklers are spiny and lobed while slicers are smooth, shiny and at least 6 inches long with deep green color. Yellow at the blossom end indicates overripe fruit.

Squash – Summer squash should be firm, shiny and very tender to the touch. Winter squash and pumpkins need a hard rind that cannot be readily penetrated with the thumbnail. Harvest by clipping from vine with stem attached for longest shelf life.

Okra – Harvest every other day, picking pods at 3 to 4 inches long when stems are still tender.
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