Now the fun begins. It’s time to pick the fruits and vegetables you’re growing, and the time to pick for the best flavor is early in the morning when they are at their prime. What you can’t eat immediately, freeze, can or store for later.
Pick herbs and freeze in ice cube trays of olive oil for a pop of fresh flavor whenever you want. Make a big batch of pesto from basil, parsley or arugula, and freeze.
Tomatoes can be slow roasted with olive oil and sealed in sterile jars, cooked and stored as tomato sauce, or quartered and frozen in plastic serving size bags. Beans, corn, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and more can be par boiled and flash frozen for easy sides to serve when summer fades.
Curing and Storing Potatoes, Onions, Garlic and Winter Squashes:
After a short period of “curing,” potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squashes can be stored for several months in cool, well-ventilated areas. Curing happens before storing, and allows the skins to toughen for extended storage. Porches, garages and dry basements are all good places to cure and store vegetables. The important thing is to keep them out of direct sunlight.
- Lay vegetables in a single layer on a newspaper or tarp in a cool, dry room out of direct sunlight for about two weeks.
- Once cured, gently brush off any dirt and discard or eat bruised or damaged vegetables.
- Store vegetables in well-ventilated, dry areas in individual baskets, bins or racks at temperatures between 35-50 degrees for several months. Vegetables should be stored out of direct sunlight.
For more information on how to preserve your harvest, check your local county extension office. And remember, The Home Depot has all of your canning supplies so that you can enjoy your bounty throughout the year!
When to Pick:
Broccoli: Center head is dark green and tight. Smaller heads form later.
Cabbage and Brussels sprouts: Heads are heavy and leaves are tightly curled.
Carrots: Top of the carrot has grown ¾” or more out of the ground. Carrots can remain in the ground through the winter, covered with 6-8″ of leaves or straw mulch to keep ground from freezing, and be harvested as needed before spring.
Corn: The silk at the top will turn brown and dry out. Corn is ready when a kernel is pierced with a knife and fluid is translucent and milky, like skim milk.
Cucumbers: Fruits are dark green, firm and about 6” long. For pickling, harvest at 3-4” long.
Dried beans: Pods are brown and brittle.
Garlic: Half of the leaves above ground are green and the other half have wilted and turned brown.
Melons: Cantaloupes slip from the vine when gently tugged. For watermelon, the nearest tendril on the vine browns and melon is heavy.
Onions: All the leaves above ground have wilted, yellowed and fallen over, and the “neck” of the onion is firm.
Peas: Pods are 2-3″, bright green and plump.
Peppers: Sweet ones are fully colored with shiny skin. Small stress lines will appear on jalapeños and other hot peppers.
Potatoes: Foliage yellows and wilts.
Snap beans: Pods are 3-5″ long.
Summer squash: Young squash are 4-6″ long, with skin that can be easily pierced by a fingernail.
Tomatoes: Fruits are fully colored and firm.
Winter squash and pumpkins: Wait until the fruit is fully colored, and the stem begins to shrivel and turns hard. If you intend to store squash for any length of time, leave a length of stem on the squash. Use pruners to cut the stem from the vine.
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