The secret to harvesting high quality vegetable crops

Temperatures are dropping, which means your garden produce is coming. It’s time to harvest! There are a few techniques that will help you make the most of what the garden has to offer.

All products require extreme care at harvest. One of the biggest mistakes growers can make on some crops is harvesting too early, when the fruit isn’t ripe and hasn’t developed its full flavor. Another mistake is to harvest certain crops too late so that they become too large, tough or seedy, such as cucumbers and summer squash. This article will cover some harvesting considerations for fruits that we prefer to eat when fully ripe.

The process of maturing produce in the garden is the process by which flavor, color, aroma and texture reach desired levels. We can classify plants into two categories of ripening, climacteric and non-climacteric fruits.

Climacteric fruits can ripen the plant once they have reached physiological maturity. These include apples, bananas, blueberries, pears, stone fruits (apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums) and tomatoes. If harvested “green when ripe”, they can be ripened after harvest and stored for the short term.

Non-climacteric fruits must ripen on the plant if you want a fully ripened fruit. Once they are harvested, no further ripening will occur. These include berries, cherries, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, okra, peas, peppers, strawberries, and watermelon. If strawberries are harvested before they turn red, they will never turn red. Watermelons develop most of their sugar content within a week of reaching full maturity, making early harvesting very undesirable.

Mechanical damage to products can be a serious problem, as it can lead to water loss, increased respiration rate and product decomposition. Common injuries include cuts, bruises and other mechanical damage. Care should be taken when digging root crops to avoid contact with the shovel. Containers must be clean; smooth and without rough edges; ventilated; and not too big. Also, wear cotton gloves, trim fingernails, and remove jewelry that could damage produce during harvest. Never throw picking bags or product baskets away to avoid bruising.

Cool produce as soon as possible after harvest. Always provide shade to harvested produce to prevent heat or sun damage. Harvesting early in the morning or in the evening helps to keep the internal temperature of the product low. Let the dew dry if the product is susceptible to fungal diseases.

The risk of bacterial and fungal diseases can be reduced by disinfecting all tools and equipment that come into contact with produce. Avoid placing produce on bare ground and clean up any produce contamination from the floor to reduce food safety risks. Sometimes fruits may fall to the ground before harvest or during harvest. It is best to leave the product to avoid deterioration of the rest of the product.

Cure roots and tubers intended for storage by exposing them to moist, warm conditions which heal wounds and thicken peels. Dry bulbs like onions and garlic (drying the neck tissues and outer skins) before packing and storing them.