Important to know facts about picking, storage of fruits,vegetables

Published Jul 29, 2018 at 9:00am

It’s the time of year when many home gardeners are harvesting vegetables from their garden beds and fruit off their fruit trees.

Fruits and vegetables are picked when they have reached either the mature or ripe stages of growth. The maturation stages is the point of development of the produce just before total cell growth has ceased to function. The ripening stage happens during the late phases of maturation, in which the catabolic process of the tissue is leading to death, known as senescence.

The maturity of a fruit or vegetable can be judged by following set criteria:

  • Skin or flesh color
  • Flesh firmness
  • Chemical composition
  • Size and shape
  • Respiration behavior
  • Time from flowering

The color of the produce to be harvested is a good indicator to follow in judging the maturity. Many fruits will lost their green color with the development of yellow, red or purple pigments.

Flesh firmness of a produce near the final stage of maturity can be tested by feeling the tightness of the produce with using a finger or thumb pressure. There will be softening within the cell walls of the produce due to a breakdown of the tissues at this stage where ready to be picked from the plant.

Chemical measurements are usually taken to find the sugar content in fruits. Such measurements are taken before harvesting grapes. A homeowner can simply judge the maturity by tasting a few grapes to see if they have reached the maximum desired eating quality.

Specific fruit or vegetable varieties will grow to a certain size and shape. If you recently tried growing a new variety that you are unfamiliar with in your vegetable garden, it is best to do some research on it’s growth developments. This includes reading up on the time from flowering guidelines either found on the seed packet or plant marker.

Vegetables and fruits should be harvested in dry weather when possible. If the produce is wet when it is picked, it should be dried before placing in storage. Produce that is stored with moisture on its surface is more susceptible to disease and decay. Leave a thin crust of dried soil covering root crops after harvesting. The layer of dry soil will help prevent rapid loss of moisture from the root, which can lead to shriveling of its skin surface.

When harvesting squash and root crops, you should leave at least one inch of stem (or top) attached to it. Water loss and decay from the produce can be slowed if you follow this harvesting technique.

There is no ideal temperature for the storage of all fruits and vegetables, because their responses to reduced temperatures and respiration rates vary widely. The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County has available informational fact sheets containing guidelines for harvesting and storing produce.

Store fruits and vegetables separately. If they are stored together in a closed area, the fruits will give off ethylene gas which will aid in the decay of the vegetables. 

You can enjoy the fruit of your harvest for many weeks or months afterward by following proper handling and storage techniques and guidelines.

For more information visit our website at or call our horticulture hotline at 315-736-3394.