Harvesting peppers, squash, pumpkins and tomatoes...

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This article provides tips for harvesting tomatoes, beans, peppers, cucumbers, corn, and other summer vegetables.
by Brett · All Zones · Food Gardens · 2 Comments · July 12, 2012 · 5,826 views

Okra

Harvesting okra can be tricky, however, because you have to get to them before the pods become tough. It takes only about four days from the time of flowering to the time to pick okra. You will need to harvest okra every other day until there are no more in order to keep them producing.

Picking okra is simple. Picking okra should be done when they are two to three inches long. You just need to test the larger pods by cutting them open with a sharp knife. If they are too difficult to cut, then you missed the opportunity to harvest okra that day. Remove these pods as they are too old. They will rob the plant of the nutrients it needs to produce younger pods. If the pods are still tender, use a sharp knife to cut the stem cleanly right below the okra pod.

Storage: Once you are done picking okra, you will want to store them in plastic bags in your refrigerator. They will last about a week or so. You can freeze them if you have too much to save in the refrigerator.

Peppers

In general, peppers can be picked when they reach a usable size. Most peppers change color when ripe. Small, thin-walled peppers, like cayennes, tend to change color quickly. Bell peppers can show strips of yellow, red, or orange and will continue to ripen when harvested and stored at room temperature. Keep in mind that picking peppers regularly will make the plants more productive and that vitamin C content and flavor improves as the fruit ripens more.

You can cut peppers from the plant using a sharp pair of pruners or a knife. When cutting bell peppers leave at least a 1/2 inch of the stem attached. Other peppers, such as cayennes, can be pulled or twisted off the stem, and will usually come off with enough stem attached, but it's still best to cut the fruits off the plant to avoid breakage. Pepper fruits will continue to ripen after picking if kept in a warm room. Refrigeration halts the ripening process.

Storage: After picking, thick-walled peppers, such as bell peppers, can be stored fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Or, you can cut them into strips, blanch them for 30 seconds in boiling water, and then freeze them. You can also pickle peppers. Small, thin-walled peppers start drying the moment you pick them. To dry hot peppers like cayennes, lay them in a single layer in a very warm place until they are beyond leathery but not quite crisp. Then store them in airtight jars.

Squash & Pumpkins

Summer Squash and Zucchini

The best time to pick summer squash, such as 'Yellow Crookneck', is when the fruits are about 6 to 8 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter, when fruits are still immature and tender. Harvest patty pan, or scallop types when they are 3 or 4 inches in diameter. It's best to harvest fruits regularly to keep the plants producing. Remove fruits from plants using a a sharp pair of pruners or a knife leaving at least 1 inch of the stem attached.

Storage: After picking, store fruits in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.

Pumpkins and Winter Squash

When the rind is hard enough to resist puncturing with your fingernail it's time to harvest pumpkins or winter squash. You can also wait until the plants have died back. When removing pumpkins from the vine leave 2 to 4 inches of the stem on the fruit. Avoid carrying the pumpkin around by its stem. If the stem is broken from the fruit decay will set in.

Storage: Cure winter squash and pumpkins for 10 to 12 days in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place that is about 75 to 80 degrees F. Then, for prolonged storage, move the pumpkins to a cool, dark, dry, and well-ventilated storage space where temperatures range between 50 to 55 degrees F. It's best to keep winter squash spread out and not stacked more than two rows deep to provide good air circulation and avoid rotting.

Tomatoes

When tomatoes change color, to red or yellow depending on variety, they are ripe. When firm and fully colored tomatoes will have their best flavor. If you like fried green tomatoes, pick them while they're still green and then slice and fry 'em up.

Storage: After picking, tomato fruits should be stored at room temperature. Don't store tomatoes in the refrigerator as this will cause them to lose flavor and firm texture.




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