By Tom Dominguez, Quay County Extension
After gardeners have worked hard and long to grow fresh produce, many are often robbed of their potential goodness because of improper, ill-timed harvesting. To avoid the occurrence of that unfortunate situation again, I have listed a number of the most popular garden vegetables and the harvest procedure for each.
Harvest before maturity when pods are not completely full for maximum tenderness. Wash immediately and refrigerate.
Harvest when fruits are bright, firm and green, but before they get too large; 1 to 2 inches diameter is about right with the smaller size best for pickling. All nubbins, poorly shaped or light-colored, fruits should be picked and discarded. If possible, do not store in refrigerator for more than two days. It is best to pickle cucumbers the same day picked.
Harvest when peppers are 4-5 inches long with full, well-formed lobes. Immature peppers will be soft, pliable, thin-fleshed, and pale in color. Wash and chill immediately.
Harvest when fruit is 4-6 inches long for yellow crookneck squash, 6-9 inches for yellow straight neck, and 3-4 inches in diameter for white scallop. Glossy color indicates tenderness. Wash, dry, and store in a warm area of the refrigerator. Squash, like cucumbers, is susceptible to chilling injury and should not be stored for more than two days.
Harvest at pink stage and ripen in a warm area of the house. This will not affect flavor and may save loss due to insect, neighbor and bird damage.
The okra will produce large flowers about 2 months after planting. The okra pods will be ready to pick 3-4 days later. Harvest the pods when they are 3-4 inches long. If the okra gets too large, it will be tough and stringy. Pick the okra every 1-2 days or yields will be decreased.
Tom Dominguez is an agent with the Quay County Extension, NMSU Extension Service. He can be reached by calling 461-0562 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.