There is no specific time of the year when you should begin harvesting your produce as fruit and vegetables become ripe and ready to harvest at different times of the year. Climate, variety and the particular season are other factors that have an impact but you should always remember that the quality of fruit and vegetables does not improve after harvest in most cases, although tomatoes can be picked before they are fully ripened and left to ripen indoors. Watermelons, on the other hand, are not ready to eat until fully developed.
If you pick things too soon, they are likely to be too tender and this will impair the flavour. And, if you leave it too late, not only will this affect the taste but the produce may become mushy or tough.
So, How Can You Tell When Things are Ripe?
Unfortunately, there is nothing set in stone to help you determine whether or not a fruit or vegetable is ready to be harvested. It’s a case of reading up on the types of fruit and vegetables you’re growing, becoming familiar with how to spot a ripened item and constant practice.
Seed packets can give you a good guideline as most of them will tell you the approximate number of days from planting to when the produce will be ready to harvest but there are many variables such as the weather during the season and other factors that mean that they can only be rough guidelines.
Most good gardening books will explain the things to look out for with each individual fruit and vegetable that indicate that they are ready to harvest. For example, when the foliage on a parsnip starts to die, it’s ready to pick, so are potatoes once the leaves have withered and have started to turn brown. Peas are ready when the pod is well filled but there is still a little bit of space between each pea. Sprouts, on the other hand come in both early and late varieties so there’s the possibility that you may start picking in September right through until March.
Therefore, there are no hard and fast rules and the more research you do via the internet or by buying a good gardening book, it will improve your chances of getting it right.
Storing Your Produce
Hopefully, you will have taken great care when harvesting your produce as rough treatment can damage it and can cause decay far more quickly.
The main things to consider in successful storage of your produce are moisture, ventilation and temperature and, again, this can vary depending on what types of fruit and vegetables you are growing. Temperature has an impact in the conversion of sugar to starch and this can be critical with things such as peas or sweetcorn where it’s necessary to keep these items cool straight away to minimise damage.
Suitable humidity levels also vary depending on what it is you’re storing. Leafy vegetables thrive in high humidity whereas onions prefer a much drier atmosphere.
Proper ventilation also helps to prevent wilting and the breakdown of tissue in fruit and vegetables.
Some vegetables are better stored in a refrigerator for a short time before use whilst others can be kept over a longer period at air temperature in a shed. Others taste better if cooked straight away at which point you can then freeze them to be used over a longer period. Things like onions and garlic can be stored in net bags and fruit such as apples can be left in a bowl indoors.
The fact is it’s all about getting to know your broccoli from your brussels sprouts and your apricots from your avocados – there are no rules as such that are common to all but, over time, you’ll become more knowledgeable about each of the things you grow and you’ll be able to reap the benefit of your labours for years to come.