How To Harvest Summer Vegetables

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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 · 7,458 views

This article contains basic information and tips for harvesting and storing many types of summer vegetables. After putting in the time and energy to grow your vegetables you want to make sure that you pick them at the right time. Below is a listing of the most popular vegetables and tips for harvesting and storage.

When harvest time comes, it comes big-time. For the veggie gardener, the challenge now may be to keep ahead of a tsunami of vegetables. It's best to take a basket out to the garden every day to see what has ripened. Picking vegetables as soon as they are ripe often encourages the plant to produce more.

Keep in mind that it's crucial to keep track of what specific varieties you planted so you know what to expect. Whether you plant your vegetable plants by seed or container plants it's a good idea to keep the seed packet or the plant plant tags. There are many cultivars of vegetables today, bred for different characteristics such as size. You can plant a watermelon variety that ripens at eight inches across or one that's not ready until the fruit weighs 30 pounds. And it would be a shame to pick yardlong beans (which actually are best when they are 15 to 18 inches long) at the five to six inches that would be normal for pole beans.

When you harvest, also look out for signs of trouble, such as yellowing leaves or rotting fruit, and remove the problem parts. Even if it's something you can do little about, such as blossom end rot or cracking from too much rain, there's no point in letting the plant put energy into fruit you won't be able to eat.

Okay, so here's a list of common vegetables with general tips for harvesting and storing...


Snap Beans / Green Beans - Bush and pole

Before harvesting green beans, the pods should be firm and crisp and generally about as thick as a standard pencil. The bean should snap when you break them in half. The seeds on the inside should be very small and not filling out the pods. When picking be careful to just to pick the bean off the plant and not the entire stem that can and will produce more beans. You can pinch the beans off with your fingers or use a clean pair of pruners or scissors to do the job. Pick beans regularly as this helps to keep the plants producing.

Storage: Snap beans will keep for 1 to 2 weeks when stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator or frozen for long term storage

Shell Beans - Romano, Lima, Southern Peas, Soybeans, etc.

The pods on these beans should be plump and firm but tender when you pick them. Pick these beans when the pods change color but before the beans inside are dried out. Pick beasn from the plants every day or two to keep the plants producing.

Storage: Snap beans will keep for 1 to 2 weeks when stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator or frozen for long term storage

Dried Beans - Great Northern, Navy, Pinto, etc.

When the pods of these beans have dried on the plant, turned brown, and the seeds have hardened and rattle inside the pods, it's time for picking. If the weather has been rainy and wet and pods will not dry you can pick and hang them indoors to allow them to dry. When dry, the pods should split open a little making the beans easy to remove from the pods.

Storage: Place the dried beans in an airtight jar with a desiccant to absorb moisture, They can then be stored in cool, dry spot for up to a year


Carrots can be left in the ground longer, unless the weather gets extremely hot but, usually, two to three months after planting time carrots are ready to harvest. You can always pull a couple to check their size. I always water the ground before harvesting to make them easier to pull. You can also loosen the soil a bit with a garden fork and then pull the carrots gently out of the ground. After pulling, brush soil off the plants and twist off the tops.

Storage: When you store carrots in the fridge do so in a covered container filled with water. Doing this should keep them fresh a lot longer.You can layer them in moist sand or sawdust and store them in a root cellar for up to 4 months. You can also can, freeze, or dry carrots.


Look for dark brown, soft silks (not brittle silks), and pick the ears when the kernels are plump and tender and when milky liquid comes out when you prick them with your fingernail. If the liquid is clear and watery, the corn isn't ripe yet; if there is no liquid, the kernels are too ripe and past prime.

Corn tastes best when picked in the later afternoon because of its higher sugar content. Harvest by twisting the ear off the plant in a downward direction.

Storage: Because the sugar in the corn quickly converts to starch, eat or preserve the corn immediately after harvesting. The sugar-enhanced or super-sweet varieties hold their sweetness and may be kept in the refrigerator a few days longer than standard cultivars. Freeze or can any surplus corn you may have.


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