Harvesting the food you grow can be a rewarding experience. Read below for some general guidelines on how and when to harvest your home-grown vegetables.
Before you harvest, it is important that you are prepared with the proper tools on hand. You will need:
- A clean, food-safe container to gather your produce
- Scissors or pruners
- Food-safe wipes or soap to clean your tools
Wash your hands and tools before you harvest. This will help prevent the spread of diseases.
Harvesting early in the day is usually the best time because it is cooler and your fruits and vegetables will still be well hydrated. It is also recommended not to harvest when it is raining as water can encourage the spread of diseases between plants. Do not harvest any produce that has been contaminated with bird or animal droppings. Also, be wary of anything that is bruised or damaged by animals or diseased. Produce of this kind should be kept away from the healthy produce. You can toss damaged, but otherwise healthy, produce into a compost pile to use in your next growing season!
When harvesting leafy greens, be sure to harvest from the outside in to extend the life of your plant. This will encourage your plant to grow more and extend your harvest! Some leafy veggies are best harvested when they are younger and tender.
When harvesting fruits and vegetables, be sure to do so when they are ripe and ready. Their flavor will be much better! Handle fruits and vegetables gently to avoid bruising. Try to remove as much dirt and debris from your harvest as possible while you’re still outside. Harvesting can also be a fun activity for the whole family.
After you harvest, it is time to clean up. Make sure you keep your produce in the shade while you are working. This will help keep moisture loss down. Once you clean your tools and head inside, get ready to prepare your harvest for use or storage. If you are going to use your harvested produce immediately, it is best to clean it right away. If you plan on storing it away for later use, lightly rinse your greens and wrap in a paper or cloth towel and store in the fridge. Other vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, or onions should not be washed until they are used. This will help reduce the chance of the food spoiling. The last thing you should do is reap the rewards of your work and enjoy your fresh food!