‘Handle with extra care’ Expert guide to harvesting summer fruits for ‘longevity’

Harvesting fruits may seem as simple as picking the ripe produce from the plant, but there’s more that can be done to perfect the flavour and longevity of your homegrown ingredients. From the time of the day you choose to harvest, to the tools you use to do so, there are several factors which can make or break the quality of your crop. Here’s your expert guide to harvesting summer fruits from your garden, according to Tom Hilton – garden specialist at National Greenhouse.

There’s nothing better than the taste of fresh, homegrown food, and there’s plenty to be enjoyed in the heat of summer.

Apricots, blackberries, plums, tomatoes and peaches are just some of the fruits that are ready to pick in the warm season, but what’s the best way to do it for a perfect harvest?

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Tom Hilton, outdoor and indoor garden specialist for National Greenhouse said: “The key to harvesting is in the timing and planning, as you want the best flavour, nutrition, and longevity from your new kitchen ingredients.

“The best time to harvest is in the morning when it’s the coolest so that the handling is easier.”

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How to harvest fruit and vegetables

When it comes to picking the fruit, Tom noted that all gardeners should “handle with extra care” to avoid damaging or bruising your “garden delights”.

Neglecting to do this can leave your crop looking worse for wear while speeding up the decay process, causing your fruits to go off more quickly.

Of course, most crops can be plucked by hand, but it is best to use some basic tools to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Always consider the best tool to use for each plant to get the best results.

How to store fresh fruits

Making your crop the best it can be goes beyond growing the plant, in fact, it has a lot to do with the way the produce is stored.

Always store freshly harvest produce out of direct sunlight and in the right conditions suited to each fruit or vegetable.

Tom noted that it is important to be mindful of expiration dates for the different crops, adding that labelling containers will help to keep everything “organised and efficient”.

He said: “Fruits and vegetables that have waterproof, waxy skins need cold storage – you can also submerge them in ice water just as you harvest to cool them right down before storage.”

What fruits and vegetables are in season now?

There is a wide variety of crops ready to be harvested in late July and early August, including:

  • Apricots
  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Melons
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes
  • Aubergines
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Courgettes
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Spring onions
  • Sweetcorn

When it comes to picking seasonal favourites, there are a few clues that can help you perfect your harvest timings.

Tom explained that cucumbers usually go a dark green colour when they are ripe, though some varieties have a yellow or white tint.

He said: “Ripe cucumbers will feel firm and will be ready to pick when they are six to nine inches long.

“If they are left to grow larger than this, they can develop a bitter taste.”

Carrots are normally ready to be harvested around 60 to 80 days after planting, but it will depend on the variety you are growing.

In most cases, carrots are ready when the top of them has grown to be about three-quarters to one inch in diameter and the colours and vibrant.

Beetroot crops are usually ready to dig up several weeks after being planted.

Tom said: “They should look dark in colour, firm and juicy with smooth skin.

“Also look out for the leafy greens wilting, this will also be a key indicator that they are ready for picking.”

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