CORVALLIS, Ore. – When garden produce is ready, don't hesitate too long before you harvest. That's the advice of Ross Penhallegon, horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.
"Regular picking encourages vegetable plants such as sugar peas, cucumbers, squash, bush beans, peppers, broccoli, and eggplant to produce more," he said. Even a few mature fruits on a cucumber plant will stop new fruit from setting, he added.
For example, if a zucchini isn't harvested and starts going to seed, the plant is triggered into a different growing stage and won't develop any more squash.
Look for the following qualities when harvesting vegetables.
Bush beans: Pick when two to three inches long.
Squash: Summer squash is ready when medium-sized with a rind that is easily dented with a fingernail. Winter squash is ready when the firm rind can't easily be dented with a fingernail.
Tomatoes: Size is not a good indication of maturity. Look for proper color. Tomatoes can be picked at any degree of ripeness, but they taste best if ripened on the vine.
Cucumbers: Pick before they turn yellow. Small to medium ones are good eaten fresh.
Broccoli: Stalks ready for picking should be firm, but tender. Buds at the top of the stalk should be compact and not showing the color that would indicate the plant is flowering. Cut the large central head just before it separates into several heads. After that, cut the side shoots that develop into small heads.
Eggplant: Ready when dark and shiny.
Peppers: Usually mature late. The green varieties should be firm and have a shiny color. Red varieties should have a uniform red color before harvesting.