Harvest Summer’s Bounty

Both the yellow flowers and their ultimate zucchini squashes provide yummy summer treats. (Photo © Hilda M. Morrill)
Both the yellow flowers and their ultimate zucchini squashes provide yummy summer treats. (Photo © Hilda M. Morrill)

It’s the time of year we gardeners have been waiting for… harvesting and eating the fruits of our labor! But there are always questions: When exactly to harvest? What is the best way to pick that zucchini?  What if I harvest too early? Which veggies can I pick that will produce again?

Following are some tips from the National Garden Bureau on harvesting your produce.

Bean stems are easily broken. So, don’t yank. Pick every other day when the beans begin bearing to make sure that they produce to their full potential. Healthy plants will often rebloom and produce a second and third flush.

Beets can be harvested at any time, often with the smaller ones being the most tender. With red beets, look for ones that are dark in color with a shiny coat. Cook the leaves as well as the roots. All parts of the plant are delicious.

Harvest cabbage heads when they have formed tight, firm heads. Cut the stem below the head but do not pull the remaining plant. Smaller cabbage heads often develop near the base of harvested heads.

Harvest carrots as soon as the roots show color. Carrots will take a frost and actually get sweeter with cooler fall weather. For a fall carrot crop, succession plant carrot seeds in midsummer.

Harvest eggplants when the fruits reach full size, the skin is glossy and the flesh firm. Press the skin gently with your thumb. If it bounces back without cracking, the fruits are ready to harvest.

Start picking squash when the skin is shiny. In general, summer squash are most tender and flavorful when very young. It’s true: the more you harvest, the more you will get!

The exact signs of ripeness vary with variety, but in general, perfectly ripe tomatoes show deep color yet still feel slightly firm. You can pick tomatoes a little green to ripen indoors, but the best flavor comes from ripening on the vine.

Happy Gardening!

We thank Diane Blazek, the Executive Director of the National Garden Bureau, for sharing some tips with us. Founded in 1920, the NGB is a non-profit organization whose mission is to disseminate basic instructions for backyard gardeners and those who want to garden, that will inspire them to spend more time outdoors, enjoying all nature has to offer. For more information, be sure to visit their website at www.ngb.org.