VEGETABLE HARVEST & STORAGE
The rewards of summer labors are now available in our gardens and correct harvesting will give a nutritional and tasty pay-off. For most vegetables, bigger is not necessarily better. The line between under-ripe, ripe and overripe can be a thin one with crops like corn, cucumbers and snap beans. Generally speaking, harvest in the morning, as soon as the dew is off to assure maximum flavor. Try to avoid harvesting wet plants, as this can quickly spread disease.
Harvest snap beans as the pods begin to swell. Dry beans should dry on the vine, if possible. If rains start, they can be hung in a protected area to finish drying.
Beets are good for greens or bottoms, but taking too many greens may eliminate the bulbous roots. Beets are ready to harvest from 1 inch in size until they begin to get woody. Beets also store well. Broccoli must be cut before the clusters turn pale or begin to loosen. Winter sprouting broccoli does not form firm heads. By carefully cutting the head and leaving the plant, many mini-broccoli may be harvested later. Broccoli plants will survive frosts well.
Harvest brussels sprouts from the bottom up. Break off leaves as the sprouts begin to get crowded. Brussels sprouts will also survive frosts well.
Harvest cabbage when the head is firm. If rains start, crack the root system by twisting to prevent splitting. Heavy frost will ruin the head. Young, unheaded plants overwinter well, especially Savoy types, for early spring feasting. Cabbage also stores well at just over 32 Fahrenheit.
Carrots may be eaten anytime up to full maturity and store very well. The tops are excellent for flavoring.
Cut cauliflower just as the outermost curds begin to loosen. Miniature cauliflowers will often appear later around the cut edge. Cauliflower is also a good overwintering crop, harvested in April and May.
Corn is close to ready when the silks wither and begin to brown. If the kernel juice is milky-thin, it is perfect for eating.
Cucumbers, like zucchini, should be picked every 2 to 3 days once they start producing. If not harvested regularly, production will slow or stop, as soon as seeds begin to mature in the fruit. All summer squash are harvested the same as cucumbers.
Greens like swiss chard, kale and collards may be harvested as needed, although kale and collards will have a better flavor after a frost or two. All three greens overwinter very well in gardens here in the valley.
Harvest eggplant with about 1/2 inch of stem left attached, before the glossy skin fades.
If you are lucky enough to have melons, the cantaloupe is ready if it separates from the stem when lifted. Cantaloupe should have a rich aroma. Watermelons are trickier, but generally the nearest tendril will wither and the ground spot will turn yellow. Thumping is rarely reliable. Leave 2 inches of stem and the watermelon will store for quite a while.
Peppers keep best if 1/4 inch of the stem is left attached. They can be harvested green or red. Hot peppers will be the hottest if allowed to fully mature on the bush, as much of the hotness concentrates in the seeds. Sweet peppers are most nutritious if fully matured.
Tomatoes are best when fully ripened. If frost threatens, gather all that are mature green and ripen indoors away from direct sun. They keep best if temperatures in storage do not drop below 55 Fahrenheit.
Winter squash and pumpkins are ready when the rind will not dent easily with a fingernail. Leave 1 inch of stem attached. Both keep longer if harvested before severe frost.
COLD STORAGE COOL ROOM STORAGE (35- 40 F., 85 - 90% relative humidity) (55- 60 F., 80 - 90% relative humidity)
Vegetable Approximate Storage life
Vegetable Approximate Storage Life
Asparagus 5 days
Cucumber 14 days
Beans: Snap & Lima 5 days
Eggplant 7 days
Broccoli 7 days
Cantaloupe 7 days
Cabbage 30 - 90 days
Pepper 3 days
Cauliflower 14 days
Pumpkin 60 - 90 days
Lettuce 10 days
Squash, summer 5 days
Onion, green 30 days
Squash, winter 60 days
Peas 5 days
Sweet Potatoes 120 days
Potatoes 60 - 120 days
Tomatoes (ripe) 5 days
Rhubarb 14 days
Watermelon 7 days
Root Crops 60 - 120 days
Spinach 10 days
Sweet Corn 3 days
Supersweet Corn 7 days
Snap beans & potatoes should not be held below 40 F.
Cucumbers, peppers, watermelons, ripe tomatoes and melons can be held at lower temperatures (45 - 50 F.) for a few days without injury.
Prepared and updated by Pat Patterson, 6/99, OSU/Lane County Extension Horticulture Program Assistant