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Ripeness Guide

When is It Time to Harvest?

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It's easy to tell if certain fruits, vegetables and herbs are ready for harvest; others require a little more investigation. The following Ripeness Guide offers tips on how to tell when it's time to harvest!

Have more questions about specific crops? Click on the highlighted crops below to go straight to the plant page with growing and harvesting tips!

Apples

Look for rich color, smooth skin, and a firm body. On the tree, the stem should part readily from the branch when the fruit is cupped in the palm of your hand and given a slight twist around, then up.

Artichokes

Globes should be plump, compact, and tightly closed. Green bracts ("leaves" of the bud) are not wilted and squeak if gently squeezed.

Asparagus

Cut spears that are about 6 inches in length. Look for tightly closed tips and firm yet tender stalks (whether thick or thin).

Beans

Taste one and decide. You may want to start harvesting French snap or string beans when they are about the diameter of a chopstick, maybe even thinner. Standard varieties are ready when they are as thick as a pencil and before the seeds swell and become visible through the pods. Lima beans are ready when their pods take on a green color and feel full. When bean pods turn white, feed them to the pigs or the compost pile.

Beets

Look for small to medium-size roots. Beets can be harvested at any time, but the larger ones will often be tougher and woody. Beets should have smooth, firm flesh, show a rich color, and have healthy green leaves (not wilted).

Blackberries

Look for the plump berries with a uniform black, shiny color with a hint of dullness. Avoid reddish color.

Blueberries

Look for the plump, firm beries with a uniform dark blue color with powdery white coating (called bloom). If picking yourself, don’t rush to pick the berries as soon as they turn blue. Wait a couple days. When they are ready, they should fall off right into your hand.

Broccoli

The buds (treetops) should be dark blue-green and tightly closed. If the underside of the top turns yellow, the broccoli is overripe. The stalks should be firm and the greens should be green and fresh (not limp).

Cabbage

Look for a firm body, and crisp, richly colored leaves. Avoid a cracked head, pale color, or wilted leaves.

Cantaloupes

Look for a fragrant aroma, a hollow sound when thumped, and a blossom end that is slightly springy when pressed. The color under the skin's netting should be yellow or cream color.

Carrots

Young carrots are the sweetest. Carrots are mature at ½ inch in diameter. Look for a bright color, firm body, and smooth skin. The leaves should be crisp and green.

Cauliflower

The heads should be compact, white, and firm, with tightly clustered florets. The leaves should be bright green.

Celery

Stalks should be harvested when eight-inches long. Look for a fresh aroma, firm stalks, a green and glossy hue, and healthy green leaves.

Cherries

Look for plump, firm fruit with a glossy, uniform, dark color for the variety and a fragrant aroma.

Chives

Cut before the purple blossoms form, and keep them cut back for the sweetest flavor.

Corn

Ripe, just-picked ears have a tightly attached husk that is pliable, healthy and green. If you open an ear and stab a kernel with your fingernail, a milky liquid shoudl ooze out; if it contains water or is dry, it's not good. The kernels should be plumb and arranged in tight rows that extend to the tip of an ear.

Cucumbers

Harvest when about 6 inches long. Look for richly dark green skin and a heavy, firm body. Small cukes are the sweetest and have the softest seeds.

Eggplant

Harvest when the skin of the fruit is smooth, shiny, and unwrinkled. The color should be richly colored and the body should lbe heavy and firm. Avoid large-size eggplant.

Garlic

The wrapper or "paper" should be unbroken, tight, and dry (not disintegrate). When harvesting, the tops will turn yellow. The bulb should be firm and plumb, not shriveled or spongy. Avoid sprouts.

Grapes

Look for plump, firm grapes that are tightly attached to the stems. If the green variety, the color should be green tinged with yellow; if the red variety, color should be dark red without any green; if the purple variety, color should be almost black without any green.

Leeks

Harvest when the white portions are about one-and-a-half inches in diameter.

Lettuce (Head)

The lettuce head should still be compact and slightly yield when squeezed. Look for clean, crisp leaves with healthy color.

Lemons and Oranges

The best indicator of ripeness is taste. However, start with lemons that are heavy for their size and show a bright yellow color. Avoid dull or greenish color and soft spots.

Okra

Pick the pods when they are two-and-a-half inches long, or about 4 or 5 days old.

Onions

Harvest green onions when the bulbs are 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Wait for the tops of storage onions to fall over and turn brown before you pull them.

Peas

Pick when plump but before the pods wrinkle on the stem and take on a dull whitish cast.

Peaches

At their peak, peaches have a golden color and a body that yields easily when gently squeezed. There should be no green left on the fruit. If you pick off a tree, the peaches should come off the tree with only a slight twist. The fruits found on the top and outside of the tree usually ripen first.

Pears

Harvest pears when they are mature but still hard. Most varieties do not change color when ripe, but the color should be consistent and the aroma fragrant. The stem area should yield slightly to pressure.

Peppers

Look for a firm body with thick walls, smooth skin, and a bright and shiny color. They can be any size, but the longer bell peppers stay on the plant, the more sweet they become and the greater their Vitamin C content.

Potatoes

Potatoes should have a firm body and be heavy for size, without any black or soft spots, sprouts, wrinkles, or greenish tinge.  If you're growing potatoes, harvest the first delectable little potatoes when plants have just bloomed. For more-mature potatoes, which will be the best keepers, wait until the foliage has died down.

Pumpkins and Winter Squashes

These cousins are ready to harvest when their skin hardens. Press your fingernail through the flesh. If you have to work at it, the squash is ripe; if it's very easy to pierce, the squash is immature. The skin should be full (nonglossy), firm, and rich in color without blemishes or cracks or soft spots. The stem should be dry and firm.

Radishes

Look for a firm, smooth, well-shaped body. The color should be bright. The leaves should be healthy and green.

Raspberries

The berry will be fragrant, plump, fairly firm (not mushy), and show a bright, uniform color. If you're picking your own, don't tug too hard on your raspberries. A ripe raspberry will leave the vine willingly.

Spinach

Look for healthy, dark green leaves. Spinach that was left too long in the ground will have oversize leaves and taste bitter.

Strawberries

Ripe strawberries are fully red in color and shiny. They'll be plump, green-capped, and have a fragrant aroma.

Summer Squashes

Yellow squash and zucchini are at their best when they're 4 inches long. Pick them young. Plenty more will follow. They should feel firm, heavy for size, and show a bright and healthy skin as well as stem. Avoid dull or hard skin, an oversize body, soft spots, blemishes, and a dry stem.

Sweet Potatoes

Look for a firm body without a greenish tinge, soft spots or wrinkles. If harvesting, dig when the vines turn yellow.

Swiss Chard

Cut the first leaves when they're 4 to 6 inches high. Then let the leaves grow until they're 6 to 10 inches high before cutting again.

Tomatoes

Leave your tomatoes on the vine as long as possible. The perfect tomato for picking will be very red or rich in color, regardless of size. A ripe tomato will be firm and plump—only slightly soft. The skin will be smooth and glossy. The aroma will be fragrant.

 

Turnips

The best tasting turnips are the size of golf balls. They have a firm body, smooth skin, rich color, and crisp leaves that are very green.

Watermelon

A ripe watermelon should have a symmetrical body shape, a buttery yellow underbelly, and a skin that's neither too dull nor shiny. If you're harvesting from the garden, the watermelon's ready when the stem curls and turns brown and the place where the melon touches the ground turns yellow. Rap it with your knuckles and listen for a dull, hollow sound.

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Comments

FORGOT TO SAY I LIVE IN

By MESHACKSMOM

FORGOT TO SAY I LIVE IN GEORGIA

HI,I live in a blg w/125

By MESHACKSMOM

HI,I live in a blg w/125 aptmts under HUD.THEY made some garden plots for us(not very good)7 to 9 in. high only about 6 to 8 foot long.THE only thing I planted was 2 tomatoe plants,4 DILL plants 1 PARCLY, AND A PACK OF SWISS CHARD. THE tomatoe and parcly and mint grew everything else died.and I always been a good gardener,so I have no clue why.Some one told me you should not plant DILL and tomatoes together,is this true?I VERY MUCH WAS looking forward to the SWISS CHARD,but it all died.Please tell me whats going on and the best way to plant my SWISS CHARD.THANK YOU!

Depending on where you live

By Almanac Staff

Depending on where you live you can plant some more swiss chard seed now and get a fall harvest. Chard likes cool weather. Please see our chard page for growing tips.

http://www.almanac.com/plant/chard

 

 

when is spaghetti squash

By mary mellor

when is spaghetti squash ripe, or ready ti pick?

Spaghetti Squash is ripe and

By Almanac Staff

Spaghetti Squash is ripe and ready to be picked when the rinds turn a dark yellow and they are tough enough that you can't puncture them with your fingernail. 

I have a watermelon that is

By Thomas Burke

I have a watermelon that is solid green, no colour change on the bottom, and vine still producing babies and smaller ones... Looks dull, and the tendril is yellowing, but not dried out or dead yet. The new melons have a paler green striped look, this one has no stripes almost at all now...

Leave the melon on the vine

By Almanac Staff

Leave the melon on the vine until the vine turns brown and dies.

I have sugar baby watermelon

By strohlca

I have sugar baby watermelon in the garden almost ready I think. If part of it is yellow but the stem is still green, should I keep waiting?

We'd wait until the tendril

By Almanac Staff

We'd wait until the tendril turns brown and they no longer look shiny on the outside.

I have a dawarf grapefruit

By jody moruzzi

I have a dawarf grapefruit tree, cherry tree, plum tree, and orange tree. When is it best to start pruning all of them. I live in zone 9 on the border of san bernardino and riverside counties Ca.

How about eggplant? How do

By Chooch

How about eggplant? How do you know when it is ready for harvest?

We added eggplant above!

By Almanac Staff

We added eggplant above!

When should rutabagas be

By Gena Mae Berta

When should rutabagas be picked?

What about cucumbers?

By Mr.Scruffy

What about cucumbers?

Harvest cucumbers when they

By Almanac Staff

Harvest cucumbers when they are about 6 inches long.

Read more about them here http://www.almanac.com/plant/cucumbers

how about sunchokes/jerusalem

By tessmck

how about sunchokes/jerusalem artichoke? i'm growing them for the first time this year, and i'm wondering when i can taste the first ones! :-)

thanks!

You should leave them in the

By english dave

You should leave them in the ground until you want to eat them. Do not begin digging them until after a sharp frost. The frost makes them sweeter. Remember that what you haven't dug up and eaten will produce more plants next year. They are delicious and are highly invasive. Also extremely good for breaking up heavy clay soils.

when is it time to harvest

By Barbara Scott 2

when is it time to harvest oranges,grapefruit??have large ones and orange but green still on, but it is now late dec. ??????? not soft????

We've updated our Ripeness

By Almanac Staff

We've updated our Ripeness Guide, adding citrus and more fruit!

 Studies show that the longer

By Almanac Staff

 Studies show that the longer you can leave your oranges and grapefruit on the tree, the sweeter they will become. They start dropping off in January, so the longer the better! For more info, try this link: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/patiocitrus/harvesting.html

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