When to harvest a vegetable is intuitive. How to store that vegetable and for how long greatly affects its flavor and color.
The post How to Harvest & Store Garden Vegetables appeared first on Big Blog Of Gardening.When to harvest a vegetable is intuitive. How to store that vegetable and for how long greatly affects its flavor and color.
The post How to Harvest & Store Garden Vegetables appeared first on Big Blog Of Gardening.Read MoreBig Blog Of GardeningPotatoes stored for winter in a root cellar.

One of the most common questions a new gardener asks is, “how do I know when a vegetable is ready to harvest?” A few seasons of experience teaches us this as we learn to recognize the visual cues: tight heads on the broccoli, brown silks on the corn, onion tops dying back, an oncoming first freeze warning us to harvest potatoes and carrots.

But even when we harvest at the perfect time, how we store those vegetables is of supreme importance. In my early gardening years I ended up with a bin of rotten potatoes and onions because I didn’t cure them correctly – that was an entire season wasted when all I had to do was some digging online and read a little. Lesson learned.

How to store veggies is as important as knowing when to harvest them

To help you avoid the kinds of mistakes I did, the chart below includes general guidelines and tips for harvest and storage of the most common vegetables from your garden. I’ve sourced them not only from personal experience but also from reliable university extensions and growers.

When you buy your seeds or transplants in spring, take note of the maturity date and if the seller provides any storage instructions. Tuber and root crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, and beets can have significantly different storage lives depending on the variety – some are bred to store for long periods and some are definitely not. Buy the varieties appropriate for your situation – not everyone has access to a 2nd refrigerator, garage, basement or root cellar to keep their veggies edible throughout winter.

As a rule of thumb, root and tuber vegetables like beets, potatoes onions, and sweet potatoes can be held for months. Crops like asparagus, tomatoes, and melons should be eaten with 3-7 days. Cole crops like cabbage and broccoli can be held for a few weeks to 1 month. For veggies that can’t be stored very long you can also try canning or freezing.

Buy on Amazon: Storage bin for potatoes or onions.

Harvest & Storage Tips For the Most Common Garden Vegetables

CropStorage ConditionsStorage TipsHow long they’ll keepOptimum Storage conditions AsparagusCold & moistHarvest when spears are 6-9″ long. Store upright.Up to 2 weeks32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity Beans (Snap)Cold & moistHarvest 2-3 weeks after flower bloom when seeds are still small.1 week32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity BeetsCold & moistHarvest before first hard freeze, trim tops to 1/4″, cut off taproot, store in sealed containers packed with damp sand.3-5 months32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity BroccoliCold & moistHarvest while flower buds (heads) are tight and green.2 weeks32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity Brussels SproutsCold & moistHarvest when heads are 1″/2.54cm in diameter. Store in perforated bags.Up to 6 weeks.32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity CabbageCold & moistHarvest when heads are compact and firm. Remove roots and stem and store in bins with some outside leaves intact.Depending on variety, can be stored up to 5 months32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity Cantaloupe (Muskmelon)Cold & moistHarvest when cantaloupe is firm, slips easily off vine and “netting” is even.1 week32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity CarrotsCold & moistHarvest before first hard freeze. Trim greens off tops to 1/4″, store in sealed containers packed with damp sand. Keep far from fruits as ethylene gas emitted by ripening fruit will spoil carrots.3-4 months. Some varieties up to 6 months.32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity CauliflowerCold & moistHarvest while heads are white and before curds start to look like rice.3 weeks32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity CeleraicCold & moistHarvest before first hard freeze. Trim tops to 1/4″ length. Store with roots and soil intact in perforated bags or in containers with damp sand.Up to 4 months32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity CeleryCold & moistHarvest celery stalks when at least 12″/30.48cm in length. Whole plants are ready when at least 3″/7.62cm in diameter. Cut stalks just below soil line where they join the roots. Trim roots and tops (leaves can also be eaten). Store in perforated plastic bags in refrigerator.Up to 2 weeks32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity Corn (sweet)Cold & moistHarvest when corn silks are dry and brown. Test kernels by slicing with your fingernail – they should be milky when cut. Store in husks in refrigerator.5 days32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity CucumbersCool & moderately moistBegin harvesting when 6″/15.24cm long. Store in perforated plastic bags. Do not chill below 40 degrees and do not store with apples or tomatoes or cukes will spoil.1 week40ºF/4.4ºC, 95% humidity EggplantCool & dryHarvest eggplant when 6-8″/15.24-20.32cm long and glossy. To test ripeness, gently press eggplant with your thumb. If the flesh bounces back, it is ready to harvest. Use a knife or pruning shears to cut from stems. Leave large green tops (calyx) attached to the fruit. Store in perforated plastic bags in a cool room.1 week50–60°F/10–15°C, 50-70% humidity KohlrabiCold & moistHarvest before tap root elongates (it will still be round). Remove leaf stems and tops, store in perforated bags. 2-4 months32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity LeeksCold & moistHarvest at appropriate time depending on variety: early season, mid or late season. Trim tops and roots, peel outer leaves. Leave 1″/2.54cm on roots. Store upright in containers with roots in moist sand.3 weeks32ºF/0ºC, 95% humidity Lettuce & SpinachCold & moistHarvest when leaves are tender, and at any size.7-10 days32ºF/0ºC, 95% humidity OnionsCold and dry.When tops begin to fall, pull plants and allow to cure in garden for 5 days if weather is fair. Cure indoors in warm area if rainy. Allow plants to finish drying in a protected area with excellent air circulation. When finished, skins and necks should be dry and tight. Trim tops about 1″/2.54cm from onion bulb and trim roots. Store in a dark room in mesh bags, crates or vented bins. Do not store near potatoes, as they will spoil the onions. Sort onions occasionally to remove any rotting bulbs.Depends on variety. Generally, sweet and mild onions, 3 weeks. Pungent onions, 4-6 months. 32ºF/0ºC, 65-70% humidity ParsnipsCold & moistHarvest any time in fall or leave in ground through winter, as cold weather makes them sweeter. Store in perforated bags.3-4 months32ºF/0ºC, 95% humidity PeasCold & moistHarvest when pods are tender. Can be eaten whole when peas are immature or shelled when fully ripe.1 week32ºF/0ºC, 95% humidity PeppersCool & dryHarvest when peppers reach desired color. Store in perforated plastic bags in a cool room. 2 weeks50–60°F/10–15°C, 50-70% humidity PotatoesCool & moistKeep potatoes in ground for at least 2 weeks after foliage has died back to toughen the skin, but do not allow to freeze. After 2 weeks, dig them up, do not brush soil off, and allow to air dry at least 1 day during fair weather. Do not put wet tubers in storage. Store in mesh bags, crates, or vented potato bins in a dark room.5-6 months40ºF/4.4ºC, 95% humidity Pumpkins (ornamental)Cool & dryHarvest when color is fully developed, can tolerate 1 or 2 frosts before harvest. Clip “handles” close to vine and allow to sun cure up to 7 days in garden.Depending on variety, 2-5 months50–60°F/10–15°C, 50-70% humidity. RadishesCold & moistHarvest when roots are 1-1/4″/3.175cm in diameter. Trim tops.1 month32ºF/0ºC, 95% humidity. RutabagaCold & moistHarvest and remove tops when rutabagas reach desired size, usually after 2 frosts.Up to 6 months depending on variety.32ºF/0ºC, 95% humidity. ShallotsCold & dryWhen tops fall over, pull plants and cure up to 1 week in garden. Move to a protected area to finish drying. When dry, clip off tops and roots. Store in onion bags or shallow boxes.Up to 6 months32ºF/0ºC, 65-70% humidity. Squash (summer)Cool & dryBegin harvesting when fruit is 4-6″/10.16-15.24cm long. Store in perforated bags in cool spot in kitchen. Do not refrigerate more than 4 days.1 week50–60°F/10–15°C, 50-70% humidity. Squash (winter varieties and pie pumpkins)Cool & dryHarvest 55 days after fruit set and before hard frost. Cut fruit from vines and let sun cure in garden for 7 days.Up to 6 months depending on variety50–60°F/10–15°C, 50-70% humidity. Sweet PotatoesCool & moderate moistureHarvest whenever sweet potatoes reach desired size, but all should be harvested before frost. Clip vines at soil surface and dig tubers with a fork. Handle carefully to avoid damaging skin. Do not wash. Allow to cure (to toughen skin) in warm, well-ventilated area for 1 week. Store in the dark in crates or vented potato bins.7 months or more if properly handled.60ºF/16ºC, 85% humidity. TomatoesCool & dryHarvest when fruits are uniformly colored (depending on variety). Store at 55 degrees in perforated plastic bags. Do not store in refrigerator. Tomatoes will lose flavor and color if stored below 40 degrees.5 days50–60°F/10–15°C, 50-70% humidity. TurnipsCold & moistHarvest when turnips have reached desired size. Tend to sweeten after a light frost. Store as you would carrots.4-5 months depending on variety32ºF/0ºC, 90-100% humidity. WatermelonCool & dryHarvest when underside of melon turns yellow or makes a “thud” when slapped. Store in perforated plastic bags. Do not store for more than 3 days below 50 degrees.2 weeks50–60°F/10–15°C, 50-70% humidity.

Sources: Harvesting & Storing Home Garden Vegetables, University of Minnesota ExtensionStorage Crops, Johnny’s Selected SeedsWatch Your Garden Grow/Eggplant, University Of Illinois Extension.

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