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Harvest Tips for Peak of Flavor & Garden Fresh Salsa

I had my eye on this melon for weeks. Patiently I waited for just the right time when its netting became more pronounced and the blossom end was slightly soft when pressed. These were all tell-tale signs that its sugars were developed and the fruit was at its peak for picking.

This was to be the first melon harvested in my very first garden in Oregon. Each day I checked the fruit until I finally determined that this roughly three pound melon would be ready to pick the next day. Only when I went to the garden the next day with clippers in hand, the melon was gone. As I looked around there was a huge grey squirrel about 20 feet away, and as you probably guessed, he was eating my melon!


When to Harvest Fruits and Vegetables

Each fruit or veggie reveals its own distinct clues as to when they are at their peak of perfection for harvesting. And knowing when to harvest can make all the difference in a fruit or veggie that tastes great or one that is destined for the compost pile.

Typically the taste, texture, fiber and consistency are all affected in a bad way for garden produce picked past its prime. Sugars turns to starches and the texture can be tough, stringy or mushy. Picked too soon and the flavor can be underdeveloped or bland and lack in both sweetness and substance.

The harvest window may be short, long, or anywhere in-between. Some veggies like peppers hold well on the vine until you decide it’s time to harvest. Garden produce such as summer squash/zucchini, beans, strawberries and basil need harvesting frequently to ensure continual production and optimal flavor. And some veggies, like tomatoes, are best harvested a couple of days before they are fully ripe and then allowed to finish ripening indoors on a kitchen counter.

I always keep my harvest tools handy, which include a sharp knife and pruning shears kept in a harvest bucket, basket or bag. A few of my favorites are available at your local Kmart or at Kmart’s online store, like this lightweight yet durable utility basket that folds flat for storage and then pops open in a second, checkout the Pop Open Utility Basket.

I also found my pruners of choice at Kmart online, like the Fiskars Softgrip Bypass Pruner is perfectly sized for small to average hands. The Fiskars UltraBlade PowerGear® Bypass Pruner is fine-tuned to hands that are average or larger in size. The pruners not only make for easy clipping of produce, but they are also durable enough to handle most any pruning chore up to 5/8 or 3/4 inches in diameter.

Beans: Check daily as harvest season approaches. Harvest pods while firm and crisp with tiny seeds–usually two to four weeks after bloom.

Broccoli: Harvest when buds just begin to swell but before florets open into yellow flowers.

Corn: Wait until the silks turn dry and brown. At that time pierce a kernel with your thumbnail. If the juice that squirts out is milky in color, then the corn is ready to harvest.

Cucumbers: Check daily for optimal fruits. Harvest slicers when fruits are 6 to 8 inches long; harvest slender types at 8 to 12 inches long; pick picklers between 2 to 4 inches long.

Eggplants: Fruits are sweet and tender when harvested while young and firm, which is typically one-third of its mature size. Mature fruit is soft, pithy and laden with bitter-tasting seeds.

Peppers: Green peppers are the immature stage; for peppers that are fully flavored and sweet, wait to harvest until after color changes occur, whether red, yellow, or orange.

Summer Squash: Check vines daily once fruits appear. The fruit is best when harvested while small; 4 to 8 inches for zucchini, straightneck and crookneck varieties; up to 4 inches in diameter for pattypans.

Tomatoes: Harvest fruits a few days before fully ripe, when tops are fully colored and fruits are slightly soft to the touch. Allow to finish ripening indoors; fruit flavor is weak and texture mushy when stored in the refrigerator.

Melons:  As for melons, be sure to harvest fruits before a squirrel beats you to it! :)

Garden Fresh Salsa – Kris Wetherbee’s Style

This is a great-tasting medium hot salsa to serve with chicken or fish, accompanied by chips, as a condiment for roasted vegetables, with black beans and eggs, or as a topping for a sandwich, burrito or a wrap.

Yields: about 2 1/2 cups

  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 mildly hot pepper (such as Ancho or Anaheim), seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 medium-hot pepper (like Serrano or Jalapeno), seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Juice from 1/2 fresh lime
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Combine tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, basil and parsley in a medium serving bowl. Sprinkle with lime juice, olive or avocado oil and salt; toss well. Let stand for 1 hour at room temperature before serving.

Note: Serve this salsa when freshly made at room temperature for best flavor. Prolonged refrigeration can change the texture of tomatoes from firm and juicy to soft and mushy. – Kris Wetherbee

Read Kris’ Recent Blogs & Guides

° How to Make Herb-Infused Vinegar & Wetherbee’s White Bean Salad Recipe – NEW & HOT!
° Gardening Tools for Fall – Wetherbee’s Must Haves 
° Dehydrating Food & Wetherbee’s Dried Cherry Almond Muffins
° Winter Squash Tips & Wetherbee’s Spaghetti Squash Recipe
° Dividing Perennials – Ways to Rejuvenate Prized Perennials
° Composting 101 – Making Black Gold for Your Garden
° Palm Trees 101 – Growing Tips for Outdoor & Indoor
° Tips on Watering Your Garden During the Drought Season
° Setting-up a Bird Bistro with Wild Bird Feeders & Seeds
° The Glamorous Garden Gear-Up – Garden Clogs & Apparel
° The Bird-Bath Wonderland for Winged Wildlife
° Power up with Hot and Sweet Peppers – Garden to Table Cooking
° Incredible Edible Flowers – Garden to Table Cooking
° Flowering Vines & Climbing Plants: Clematis to Morning Glories
° Walnut Basil Pesto With a Twist – Garden To Table Cooking
° Summer Squash Varieties – Garden to Table Cooking
° Sensational Spring Blooms
° How to Grow Tomatoes: Garden to Table Tips
° Go Wild with Hanging Flower Baskets for Mother’s Day
° How to Attract Birds to Your Garden
° Hazelnut Parsley Pesto – Garden to Table Cooking
° Deer Resistant Plants for your Garden
° How to Grow Beautiful Roses – Planting, Growing and Care
° Power up with Perennials
° Three Easy Steps to Plant Summer Flowering Bulbs

Kmart Garden Tool(s)

 ° Lawn Garden Outdoor Tools Supplies

kris wetherbee


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  1. Your squirrel experience is VERY familiar in these parts. That has happened many times to me with the perfect tomato on the vine in our garden.

    The addition of parsley and basil in the salsa sounds really yummy!

  2. Thank you for the recipe Kris!

    We had all the ingredients with plenty of tomatoes left over from having family over this weekend so my daughter and I made the salsa today!

    All ingredients were added except for the hot pepper and it was the most delicious salsa that I have ate in quite a while!

    Yum! You all need to try this recipe even my grand-daughter loved it!

  3. Thanks for another great blog! I understand completely about waiting for the perfect ripeness of fruit or vegetable before picking it. But I think the animals and bugs know the right time also! LOL Had to wait for my grapes to get ripe enough to be sweet. Sure enough, the day I plan to start picking, the birds and bees do also!! LOL

  4. This looks so good, Kris! I'm definitely going to try this recipe!

  5. Going to have to try this salsa recipe! I have tried to make homemade salsas before and never quite get it right. I struggle with getting the right consistency and they always come out too bland. Hoping this recipe changes the blah trend in my household!

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