Waiting for the perfect time to harvest your veggies can be tricky if you’re a beginner! You don’t want to pick them too soon before they’re ripe and full of flavor, but you don’t want to wait too long, leaving them to spoil or get gobbled up by hungry rabbits. Harvest times aren’t consistent for all veggies because different plants have unique features and growth cycles. To make it easy, we’ve listed all the most popular Pennsylvania veggies and what to look for when they’re ready for picking!
From arugula to zucchini, here are all our favorite veggies and the signs to look for when they’re ready for harvest!
Arugula, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, parsley, and cilantro are all considered cool-season veggies—they don’t like the hot temperatures of summer! You can pick the leaves regularly through late spring and early summer—just avoid removing more than ⅓ of the leaves at a time. Once the hot temperatures kick in, your plant will “bolt,” or flower, and the leaves will become bitter and yucky. We recommend pulling up your leafy greens right before they bolt so that you can use up all the remaining leaves, then plant a fresh batch at the end of summer for one last late-season harvest.
It’s tricky to tell when root veggies are ready for harvest because they’re deep in the soil. However, the top of the root crown tends to poke out from the ground once it reaches maturity. You can also brush some soil out of the way to get a closer look. Once the diameter of the carrot crown is around one inch wide, it’s ready to pull, but you can leave it for longer if you’d like a bigger carrot. If your carrot comes out stumpy and misshapen, that doesn’t mean it’s underripe—the soil was just too compacted for the root to penetrate the ground.
There are many different-sized varieties of these popular vining veggies, and they tend to ripen at different speeds. Generally, if your cucumber is dark in color and firm when you squeeze it, it’s ready to be picked.
We actually eat these peculiar veggies before they turn ripe! Once ripe, they develop brown, duller skin, and when you slice them, the flesh is soft and splotchy brown. Harvest them while they’re still bright purple and the inner flesh is creamy white. You can pick your eggplants when they’re small for the most flavor, or you can let them get bigger if you want a greater yield. Just make sure to pick them before they start turning brown!
Pick your peppers once they’ve developed their mature color. For green pepper varieties like jalapeños, wait for their green color to significantly darken. If you want them extra spicy, try to plant them in the sunniest, warmest spot possible. For milder peppers, you can plant them in partial shade.
For baby potatoes, pull them 2–3 weeks after they’ve finished flowering. For large potatoes that you plan on storing, pull them up 2–3 weeks after their foliage has completely died off.
Thick-skinned winter squashes like butternut and acorn squash are ready to pick once their rind has hardened, and it’s difficult to pierce the skin with your fingernail. They will also develop their mature color once fully ripened. Most unripe squashes are light green, but different varieties have different colors at maturity—for example, spaghetti squash turns butter yellow, acorn squash turns deep forest green, kabocha has a deep red-orange skin, and butternut squash is beige.
These thin-skinned squashes don’t work with the fingernail test, so instead, we use size as an indicator of ripeness. If you leave zucchini on the plant for a long time, it will get absolutely enormous, but the flavor won’t be quite as good. The ideal time to pick these veggies is when they measure around 8–10 inches long—it will be full of flavor and far less bland than a jumbo zucchini!
Tomatoes are some of the most popular veggies to grow because they produce such a high yield and are so versatile! As soon as the mature color starts to appear on your tomatoes, they can be picked and will continue to ripen if you leave them on a sunny windowsill. Avoid leaving ripe tomatoes on the plant for too long, as they can become more susceptible to fruit splitting. Determinate tomato plants will produce all of their fruit at once, while indeterminate tomatoes will continually produce a steady supply of veggies until frost.
If there are any other veggies you’re growing and you aren’t quite sure of the best time to harvest them, feel free to contact our team at Primex Garden Center. We’ll be happy to walk you through the steps of proper harvesting so you can enjoy all the fruits of your labor—literally!