August is prime time for harvesting homegrown vegetables. Of course, timing depends on the variety, when it was planted, weather conditions and other factors, but generally vegetable gardeners are reaping the benefits of their good planning and ongoing care at this time of year.
The Home Garden Seed Association offers these tips on how to know when to harvest vegetables at the peak of their flavour.
Pick before seeds form noticeable lumps in the pods. If left on the vines too long, the beans become stringy and tough.
When their shoulders begin to emerge from the ground, they’re ready. If left in the ground too long, especially in hot weather, their texture will suffer.
Chard and kale
Harvest baby leaves for salads. For older plants, cut the outer leaves regularly until frost or even later. Make sure not to damage the growing tips of plants when harvesting leaves.
Pick when green and firm. Big cucumbers become bitter as seeds mature.
Harvest when skin is smooth and glossy, regardless of the colour or size of the variety. Left too long on the plant, eggplants become bitter and develop tough skins.
These have the most flavour when they turn red, orange or yellow, depending on whatever their mature colour is intended, although you can always pick them green if this is what you prefer. Clip off the fruits to avoid damaging plants.
Watermelons turn dull when ripe and the tendril closest to the fruit shrivels. The colour of the netting on cantaloupes goes from green to tan. Honeydews develop a yellow blush.
Zucchini is tender when no longer than 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm). Patty pan squash is best at 3 inches (8 cm) or less.
Best when the rind is hard and no longer shiny. Cut squash from the vine, leaving a short handle, and cure it in a warm spot for 10 days before storing it cool and dry.
Generally, fruit should be fully coloured and slightly soft when gently squeezed. Exceptions are large heirlooms and cherry tomatoes, both prone to cracking. Pick these before they’re completely ripe and leave them on the counter to finish ripening.