You’ve put so much work into your garden this year, and the time has come to enjoy the results of all your efforts. It’s no easy task to keep a garden healthy, so you definitely deserve to sit back and try those delicious fruits and vegetables that have started showing up.
But wait–when exactly is it time to pluck that zucchini off the vine? Is that tomato ready to be eaten yet? The different plants you’ve been growing have specific guidelines for how and when they should be harvested, so make sure you are aware of the best harvesting methods for your garden.
One of the best ways to help you know when to harvest is to be aware of how long it takes each variety to mature. This will give you a rough date for when it’s time to harvest. Of course, the time it takes for a plant to mature can vary a bit with each individual plant, so it is also helpful to understand some ways to tell if a fruit or vegetable is ripe.
Visually inspecting the garden is one way to get a good idea of maturity. Many tomato varieties are ready to harvest when they turn bright red, eggplants should appear shiny, and summer squash should be picked before it grows too long. Know how the fruits and vegetables you are growing are supposed to look when they are ripe so you can pick at just the right time.
Touch fruits and vegetables to check firmness and texture. For example, sweet peppers will feel firm instead of flimsy when they are ready to be picked, and winter squash should have skin that is tough and thick.
Even if you do end up picking a fruit or vegetable before (or after) its prime, you may still be able to use it. Green tomatoes will oftentimes ripen if left on the counter, or you could use them in their green state for certain recipes. Zucchini that has been allowed to grow too long will develop larger seeds, but try grating or processing a large zucchini to use in bread or soup.
Although figuring out the best time to harvest your garden can be overwhelming, you will also learn from your own experience when your fruits and vegetables are ready to eat. You will likely find through trial and error when each variety tastes best. It can be a good idea to keep track each year of when you harvest and add some pictures as well. Over time you will have a thorough record of when you should harvest.
Gardening Question of the Month
Q: What are some good seed choices for fall planting?
A: Many cool-weather vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, and root crops are great for a fall garden and may be able to withstand frost conditions.
Refreshing Melon Smoothie
1/2 cup yogurt
6 ounces melon (such as cantaloupe or honeydew), cut into cubes
1/2 cup juice of your choice (such as orange or apple juice)
Add ingredients to a blender and blend completely. For a thicker smoothie, use frozen, cut-up fruit.
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