Harvesting the Late Summer Garden

Now is the time to harvest what you have so carefully tended all summer.

By FamilyTime


Seasoned vegetable gardeners know that some plants, such as cucumbers, broccoli, and summer squash, do best if harvested continuously. But others should be harvested only when they are ready.

After sowing, watering, feeding, weeding, and pruning, harvesting is a joy. For many gardeners, it is the reason for planting the garden. For the more holistic, it is only part of the experience, but nonetheless rewarding.

For cooks, harvest is the best time. Vegetables permitted to stay on the plant until they are perfectly ripe taste full, rich, and satisfying. Here is some harvesting help for a handful of the most popular garden vegetables. Depending on where you live, some of these vegetables will be long past their harvest date, while others will be just coming into season.

This should be harvested when the first small bunch forms in the center of the leaves. When it's cut, new heads will form in the same general area. For this reason, broccoli should be harvested continuously during the growing season.

When cabbage looks fully formed and feels firm, it's ready for picking. Cut the head free with a knife and leave the large outer leaves in place for storage.

The carrot patch needs thinning once or twice during the summer, when you will pull baby carrots (delicious in salads). Mature plants are ready when their tops develop but before they bolt (flower). Twist the tops when you pull the carrots to prevent breaking, and then cut off the greens, which pull moisture from the carrots.

Pick corn when the silk tassels begin to brown and the ears feel firm with rounded tips. Don't let the corn stay on the stalk any longer - it loses its sweetness.

Harvest cucumbers when the reach the size they are destined to be (some varieties grow larger than others). Don't let them stay on the vine and turn yellow, or the plant will cease producing altogether. Twist them gently or cut with scissors.

Baby eggplant are tender and sweet. You can harvest them anytime after they start to look like mature eggplant, even if they have not reached their full size. Pick mature eggplant while the skin is still glossy, and snip the stems rather than twisting them.

Cut peppers with a knife or clippers - don't pull the peppers from the plant. Pick peppers whenever you want after they start resembling peppers. Remember that green bell peppers turn red and sweet if permitted to ripen on the vine.

Summer squash:
Summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash) are best if not allowed to get much larger than six to eight inches long. This could mean relentless harvesting when they come into season. Cut them with a knife - don't yank.

Tomatoes ripen with the sunshine and should be picked only when they red (or yellow or striped, depending on the variety) and plump. They will smell ripe. Pull them gently from the plant, taking care not to knock off less-than-ripe fruit.

These should be harvested late in the season but before a heavy frost. Dig them up with they are two or three inches in diameter and chop off the greens (which you can cook). Don't cut the greens before you harvest the tuber, or you will have no tuber to dig up.

As you savor the vegetables you grew in your own garden, dream about what to plant next year. It's never to early to get a jump on the spring. Dreaming about our gardens is part of their glorious mystique and appeal.