We have a lot of time and energy invested in our fruits and vegetables and harvesting at the right time is important.
Peppers: If you’re growing sweet peppers, green is not the mature color. Yellow, red, orange, brown or lilac, maybe, but not green. Peppers are much sweeter and more nutritious if allowed to reach their peak of ripeness and that means being left to color-up. If you must pick green, lose some of that under-ripe, bitter taste by letting them reach their full size and turn from light to dark green.
Corn: corn is ready to harvest when the silk has dried to within a half inch of the tip of the ear. The kernels should have a milky juice, rather than clear, when pressed with your thumbnail.
Melons: Cantaloupes are ready when they “slip” off the vine. The melon will lift away easily. If you’re tugging, wait.
Watermelon: Look for a creamy yellow area on the bottom of the melon where it sits on the ground. The little tendril on the stem, near the watermelon, will dry up.
Carrots: Look for a nice, deep orange. The darker the orange color, the sweeter the flavor. Pull a little soil away from the top and take a look. If they’re green, it’s too much sun. (Remember that next year). If storing, remove the tops; they draw moisture from the root.
Squash: Summer squash should be picked small, about 6“ or less. If the squash get too large and the seeds start to mature, the plant gets the biological signal to stop producing. It only takes about 5-7 days for a flower to turn into a fruit ready for harvest, so be alert. Winter squash are ready to harvest when the rind is hard and you can’t pierce the rind with your fingernail. The stem will be brown instead of green.
Cucumbers: A slicing cuke should be nice and firm and about 6 inches long. A pickling cucumber should be about 4 or 5 inches long. Any larger and they will start to become very seedy and soft. Mature fruit signals the plant to stop reproducing, so keep them picked regularly.
Potatoes: “New potatoes” will be big enough to eat three weeks after the flowers first appear. For larger potatoes, wait to dig until after the tops die back at the end of their season.
Beans: Choose pods that are just beginning to show beans. Smaller is good. Larger beans get tough and stringy. Like squash and cucumber, mature beans signal the plant that it’s okay to stop producing.
Tomatoes: Harvest just at, or a bit before, the peak of redness. The sugar and acid content decrease if left hanging on the vine after it reaches the red stage. Fully ripen at room temp out of direct sun. Never put tomatoes in the refrigerator, as temps under 50 degrees change the major components of tomato flavor. Store at room temperature; They should keep for about a week.