A couple of days ago we were talking about the vegetables you might be harvesting from your garden. Today we’re going to pick up where we left off. I love fresh melons, watermelon and cantaloupe in particular, so let’s start with the melons:
Melons: Pure melon flavor is short-lived and best enjoyed fresh. The more mature the melon, the less time it will keep in the refrigerator, though you can try freezing. You should harvest most muskmelons when the stem separates easily from the fruit. the skin between the netting turns from green to yellow when fully ripe. Honeydews soften slightly on the flower end of the fruit when ripe and change slightly in color. The belly of a watermelon turns from greenish white to buttery yellow or cream at maturity; also watch for the curly tendrils where the stem meets the melon to turn brown and dry.
Onions: Onions can store for months if handled properly. Wait until the tops fall over, then gently dig up the whole plant and dry in a protected place. Keep the dry, papery outer skin on the onion, removing it doubles the rate at which the onion will decay. Cure bruise-free onions for up to a month in a well ventilated, dry, shady spot. Be sure to store onions in mesh rather than plastic bags.
Peas: Regular harvesting is vital because peas left too long on the vine aren’t as sweet and can impair the growth of immature pods. Pick bright green mature peas daily,but be gentle when pulling beans and peas from vines. Rough picking can jostle flowers and damage vegetation. Some gardeners even snip peas off with pruners or small scissors to be extra careful.
Peppers: It’s up to you when to pick your peppers. Most peppers start out green and turn different colors as they mature. Harvest sweet peppers, such as bell peppers, and hot peppers at the degree of color you desire. And take care when picking because it’s easy to damage pepper plants. Pick pimiento peppers when they are fully red and harvest hot Hungarian wax and sweet banana peppers when fully yellow, turning red, or fully red-depending on preferred hotness.
Spinach: Baby spinach is all the rage for a reason, the smaller leaves maximize flavor. Most spinach tastes really good when it’s about 3″ long. Cut, don’t pull, so you can ensure multiple harvests.
Summer Squash: Summer squash are prolific producers. Unless you want squash big (and tasty) as baseball bats, you should pick them frequently. Small zucchini and yellow squash (6-8″ long) and scalloped squash (3-6″ long) have the best flavor. Tasty fruits have tender rinds (they should puncture easily with a fingernail) and soft seeds.
I’m hungry for dinner already.
If you have any questions about harvesting the vegetables in your garden, please stop by any Western Garden Center and one of our expert gardeners will be happy to help you determine the perfect time to start enjoying the fruits of your labors.