Harvesting is easily the most exciting part of growing. It’s the time you reap the rewards of your hard work and patience! It’s when you get to experience the “I Grew That” feeling of joy.
While there are no hard and fast rules to harvesting (and every plant is different), there is an art to harvesting. How and when you harvest affects how tasty and how nutritious your fresh vegetable harvests are.
Here are our tips for harvesting vegetables to optimize the flavor.
Bigger Does Not Equal Better
It’s tempting to wait as long as possible to harvest your vegetables. After all, we’re taught that bigger is better from a young age.
In vegetable gardening, this is not the case! Each crop reaches peak maturity at a specific point in its growth. This is the time when your harvests are the most flavorful and the most nutritious. A vegetable’s peak maturity does not necessarily coincide with its largest state.
Know When to Harvest Vegetables
Time of ripeness changes per vegetable.
Certain vegetables last well on the vine; others need to be harvested immediately. Check your plant regularly and look for signs of maturity.
Check your seed packet or online for what signals ripeness in your specific crop.
Handle with Care
While certain parts of your plant may be ready to harvest, much of your plant is still growing — and therefore living. When you harvest, be careful of this fact.
Be careful as you harvest that you aren’t trampling other parts of the plant, squeezing the life out of stems, or bruising/damaging the plant in any way.
If ripe veggies don’t come easily off of plants, use a knife! This helps to avoid damage to other parts of the plant.
It’s usually best to harvest in the morning on a dry day. When the weather is wet, pests and diseases abound. When you harvest, you create vulnerable openings for disease and pests to enter your plant.
This is especially important for disease-prone plants like tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and squash.
As any gardener knows, plants grow fast. In a matter of days, a plant can go from tiny to fully ripe.
The number one rule of harvesting? Check regularly!
If you go a week without checking your plant, it’s likely you’ll miss something important.
Look often for ripe veggies. Plus, harvesting regularly often encourages new growth (and therefore more harvest!).
How to Keep Vegetables Fresh after Harvest
The less you handle your vegetables, the longer they will store. Bruises, nicks, and breaks will reduce the life of your vegetables.
The key to keeping vegetables fresh after harvest is to store them properly. Storage rules vary depending on the vegetable — each crop prefers a little different method. Look up specifics for your harvest.
Generally speaking it’s safe to assume that, if your harvest is properly ripe, you should store your harvest in the fridge — sealed and dried. Shelf life ranges from days (basil) to months (onions) depending on your vegetable.
In our opinion, use is always the best option. Cook the harvests, gift them, decorate with them…There are endless options for enjoying your vegetable harvests!
If you have any questions about harvesting, reach out to our Grow Pros for advice.
Growing herbs? See our guide to harvesting herbs here.