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Harvest

You have planted your vegetable garden attentively, cared about your plants lovingly, and watched the blossoms and fruits form enthusiastically. Now you can hardly wait for the harvest. But hold on, how do you know when it is time?

When can I harvest?

For the harvest, we distinct between early and late vegetable based on the time of harvest of the respective crop.

Early vegetable

  • Decreases in flavor the later you harvest it
  • Accumulates bitter substances when ripened too long, which impair the taste
  • e.g. kohlrabi, zucchini, peas or cucumbers

Late vegetable

  • Tastes better the later you harvest
  • e.g. root vegetables, such as carrots and radishes, or cabbage

Which indicators can I use as a guide?

Color

The fruits of many vegetables (e.g. peppers, tomatoes) change color when they are ripe and take on their variety-specific color..

Sheen

A reflective sheen, such as eggplant takes on, is a sign of ripe vegetables.

Size

If you know the size of the ripe fruit, you can use it as a guide for when to harvest. Be aware that homegrown vegetables are often smaller than what is offered in the supermarket.

What time of day is best?

In the morning the vegetables are more crunchy

  • Harvest vegetables (e.g. fruit vegetables or onion vegetables) that you want to store in the morning
  • Harvest herbs in the morning, because they lose aroma in the midday heat
  • Vegetables are plumper and crunchier in the morning
  • Vegetable plants lose a lot of water through evaporation during the day, especially on hot days
  • This reduces the turgor pressure and the vegetables become soft and „flabby“.

The nitrate content is lower in the evening

  • Harvest nitrate-rich vegetables, such as leafy greens or root vegetables, in the evening, after nitrate has been broken down by heat and light during the day
  • Wait to harvest in the evening until it has cooled significantly, otherwise the heated crop will wilt faster

„Turgor(pressure)“: Pressure that cell sap exerts on the wall of a plant cell.

What do I have to consider when harvesting?

1. Harvest in dry weather

  • Wet vegetables rot quickly
  • Plant diseases can spread more easily in wet weather

2. Be gentle and careful

  • Avoid bruising or damaging vegetables
  • Injured areas are entry points for bacteria and mold spores
  • It is best to use a knife or scissors for harvesting, especially if the fruit does not easily detach from the plant

3. Harvest several times

  • Harvest the outer, larger leaves of leafy vegetables
  • Leave the heart in the middle so that the plant can grow back and give you multiple harvests

4. Use a basket, cardboard box or crate for harvesting

  • In contrast to closed containers and plastic bags, sufficient air gets to the vegetables in the basket, cardboard box, or crate

5. Move your harvest to a cool(er) place as soon as possible

  • To prevent the vegetables from losing their freshness, store them quickly after harvesting in a shady and cool place.

6. Let your harvest ripen

  • Vegetables that emit the ripening gas ethylene, such as tomatoes, can ripen
  • Light is not needed for ripening
  • Allow your unripe fruits to ripen wrapped in newspaper or a paper bag at about 20° C and preferably in high humidity
  • The wrapping accumulates ethylene and accelerates the natural ripening process
  • Lay out the fruits in such a way that they do not touch each other or, if there are many unripe fruits, hang up whole branches (without leaves)
  • To get different ripening times, the fruits can be placed in several temperature zones indoors

How do I store my harvest?

Store your harvest to provide you with food in the short, medium and long term. Be sure to store your harvest in a way that it does not spoil. In addition to storage, you can also preserve your harvest and enjoy it at a later time. You can find everything about preservation methods here.

„Spoilage“: Natural process initiated by microorganisms resulting in chemical, physical and biochemical changes. Pest infestation is also a form of food spoilage.

Short-term storage

Some vegetables cannot be stored for long and should be eaten as soon as possible after harvest to preserve flavor, freshness and vitamins.

Storage in refrigerator

In the refrigerator, the cell metabolism of food slows down and microorganisms grow more slowly. Store fresh, easily wilted vegetables at temperatures up to 7° C., e.g. in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. Protect the vegetables from drying out by wrapping them in a damp cloth.

Storage at room temperature

Vegetables that come from warm areas do not belong in the refrigerator, where they lose aroma and flavor. Spread vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and cucumbers at room temperature (ideally around 15 ° C) on a soft surface in order to not get bruises.

Medium-term storage

Medium-term storage is well suited to store vegetables for several months without losing quality and freshness.

Storage in freezer

The low temperature in the freezer prevents microorganisms from multiplying. The sooner after the harvest the vegetables are frozen, the more vitamins can be retained. Freezing allows vegetables to be preserved for up to 1 year. Water-rich vegetables, such as tomatoes or onions, should be frozen in their processed state so they do not become mushy when thawed. Wash, clean and chop the harvested goods that you want to freeze. Brief blanching prevents color and texture from changing. Blanching also shortens cooking time after thawing. Dry the vegetables before you pack them in an airtight container. Vacuuming prevents air from entering the package and freezer burn from occurring. Freeze the vegetables in portions. 

„Freezer burn“: Dried-out spots on frozen foods caused by air contact. Freezer burn on frozen vegetables is not harmful to health, but has a negative effect on taste and texture.

Long-term storage

Only vegetables harvested from autumn onwards are suitable for longer storage, as summer vegetables contain too much water.

Preparation:

  • For root and tuber vegetables, cut or twist off the leaves, leaving 2 inches of leaf attachment
  • Allow the harvest to dry
  • Sort out vegetables with rotten spots and injuries
  • Do not wash the harvest, but tap off the soil as soon as it has dried

Storage in the basement

Ideal for long-term storage is a dark room with 4-8° C temperature and 85-90% humidity. Good ventilation is also important. When storing on the shelf, make sure that the harvest does not touch each other to avoid pressure marks.

  • Potatoes are stored in air-permeable jute or linen bags in a dry and dark place to avoid premature germination and the formation of toxic solanine
  • Root vegetables can be stored well in boxes filled with sand
  • Onions and garlic are braided into pigtails or stored hanging in net bags so that air can circulate freely

Hi, I’m Lisa from Permapot. I’ve been growing my own vegetables in my small urban garden and on my terrace for 4 years now. With Permapot I would like to make it easier for you to get started with urban gardening!

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