When you are a farmer or producer, there are several aspects to consider for making sure the crop comes to fruition successfully and you have quality yields to bring to the market. One of them is harvest time.

It takes months to sow, water, fertilise, nurture and watch a fruiting crop grow and finally when it looks like it is ready to be picked, it is important to do it correctly. When you harvest a crop can make a huge difference to the experience your final produce will deliver to the end user. Even the most experienced producers take several tries before they can capture that right moment between the time when a not-quite-ready heirloom tomato tastes bland and when it is unpleasantly overripe.  

Why is Timing Important When It Comes to Harvest?

You spend weeks caring for your plants to stay strong and healthy so that you can enjoy rich quality produce yourself and earn good profits selling it consumers in the market. Picking your crops when they are at their best can prevent losses caused by crop diseases, field animals, pests and insects and harsh weather conditions. While harvesting a crop too early can reduce the overall potency of the final produce and lower yields, being too late to pick your crops may result in poor quality and excessive losses.

However, given the different vegetable varieties, it is difficult to make statements about when is the right time to harvest. For example, fruiting crops like peas, cucumbers and kohlrabi are generally advised to be harvested in good time as they contain some bitter substances which may impair the flavour if the fruit if it become too ripe. On the other hand, vegetables like cabbage, reddish, carrot, Brussels sprouts and kale are best harvested late as they grow tastier over time.

Important Factors to Consider For Harvesting at the Optimal Time  

Deciding when to harvest is one of the most important steps in harvest management. This decision will directly influence the value of your produce in the market, future storage and marketable life of the harvest. 

Here are some tips to make sure you harvest your plants at the time that gets the maximum fruit from your labour and ensures quality end products.

  • Know the Flowering Time

The most common and the easiest way to know if your fruiting crop is ready to be picked, is having an awareness of its flowering time. This is where you can leverage online farmer database to get information about other growers with similar crops and know optimal harvest time for a particular crop. It is important to choose a reliable farm data platform and analytics service provider, to make sure you have accurate and valuable insights to inform your harvest decisions.

  • Identify Vegetables with Flexible Harvest Time

Flexible crops are the ones that you want to wait to harvest until the day you want to eat its fruit; one of the best examples of this is bell peppers. These crops can be harvested as you need them, instead of all at once, allowing the fruit to continually ripen and maintain their nutrients and fresh flavour. Crops with flexible harvest dates can ideally be harvested any time within a few weeks of the beginning of their respective harvest season, provided the weather remains relatively consistent.

  • Pick the Right Time of the Day

If you sell your vegetables at a local market, it’s a good idea to pick them in the early morning hours. This allows the vegetables to stay fresh, crisp and store longer. If picked too late, they can wilt quickly, having evaporated much of their moisture and absorbed the day heat. This especially applies to leafy greens and fresh herbs like lettuce, silverbeet, parsley and basil and fruiting vegetables like peas, and the cabbage varieties, such as broccoli and Brussels sprout.

However, there are some fruiting crops that can be harvested late in the evening or toward the end of the day as they are less sensitive to wilting. This includes peppers, tomatoes, carrots and zucchini.

In addition to these tips, here are some vegetables with their harvesting time and criteria.

Peas & Beans: Feel the pods to determine the size of the peas or seeds of beans. Pick when they look rounded and fully-developed. Check the taste and maturity of the vegetable by breaking a few pods in two.

Sweet Corn: Ready to be picked when the silk on the ears turn brown or black but haven’t dried up yet. Peel back the sheath and use the tip of a knife or your fingernail to carve into a kernel. If the kernel feels juicy and releases a milky liquid, it is ready to pick and eat. If the liquid is still clear, it can wait a bit longer for harvest.

Salad Leaves: Outer leaves of cut-and-come-again varieties are best picked to be consumed when they have reached around 4 inches. Head-forming salad leaves, such as lettuce, can be harvested when the head is full and firm.

Fruiting Vegetables: Harvest time of peppers and tomatoes can be guided by their skin colour and distinctive scent. Pick these when fully coloured and have developed their full pungency.

The Takeaway

Harvesting is an exciting and important part of crop production for every grower, whether you have grown vegetables in your little home garden or across a large farming field. Do not forget to use an online agriculture database which can provide you accurate and comprehensive insights to guide your harvesting process and make it successful.