How to Harvest, Store & Preserve Vegetables

Growing your own food not only saves you money, it also ensures that your family enjoys the freshest food with no additives included. But after you’ve planted the crops, it is now time to learn how to harvest, store and preserve vegetables.

In this article, I’ll explain each of these aspects so you can grow keep them fresh for a long time.

 

Harvesting, Storing & Preserving

You’ve done all the work. Not, it’s time to harvest.

But, just like all the other steps above, there is a right and wrong way to do it. Similarly, there is a right and wrong time to do it as well.

And, since you’ve already put in all the work, it would be such a waste to pick your vegetables at the wrong time only to end up with lackluster flavor.

That’s why with harvesting, timing is crucial.

Below, the chart shows when to harvest vegetables, including days to harvest for each vegetable and and the best time to harvest each crop.

Chart on When to Harvest Vegetables including days to maturity and best time to harvest
Chart on When to Harvest Vegetables including days to maturity and best time to harvest

Picking your vegetables at the right time not only allows you to enjoy the most flavor out of it but also the highest nutritional value it can offer.

If you pick them too early, you may not get much flavor. Harvest them too late, you end up with tough, chewy veggies.

Most vegetables are best harvested when they’re young (before they grow to full size). This makes them tender.

This is definitely true for leaves, which are best harvested earlier. Veggies like spinach, lettuce and Swiss chard and cabbage are just a few examples.

Harvesting them early allows you to enjoy them when they’re still soft. The same is true for roots and stems.

As such, it’s a good idea to start harvesting when there’s enough to use for one full meal.

In some cases, you’ll want to keep harvesting because doing so helps them keep producing, be it leaves, shoots and pods.

This is the case for broccoli, okra, spinach and peas to name a few.

When it comes to fruiting vegetables or those that bear fruit like cucumber and tomatoes, you can start harvesting when they get to a bright color. You’ll also want to test by touch seeing to it that they’re firm.

Some garden like waiting as long as possible (with fruiting vegetables) arguing that they produce the best flavor that way.

That said, there are those where you don’t want to do that.

For example, zucchinis are much better when harvested young (between 6-8 inches). The same is true for beets and carrots, which can become tough and less flavorful if they’re allowed to grow for too long.

Probably the easiest ones are root crops since they’re less picky about timing. Thus, you can get to them when you want to.

Before moving on to the next section, I’ll leave you with a vegetable seed viability chart. This may come in handy if you plant on starting your crops from seeds.

The chart shows you how long you can store each kind of vegetable seed.

chart of vegetable seed viability. how long does each vegetable's seed store for in years.
chart of vegetable seed viability. how long does each vegetable’s seed store for in years.

 

How to Store Each Kind of Vegetable

Now that you know when to harvest each kind of vegetable, it’s time to consider what to do with them.

If you’ve grown a gardenful of them, then you likely won’t be able to eat them all at once.

So what now?

How can you store them to save as much flavor as possible? And, without, letting them rot and go to waste.

In some cases like that of winter squash and potatoes, you can easily store them for months.

But, that isn’t the case for most veggies. As you probably already know, they get soft and mushy fairly quickly. And, leafy ones get brown spots soon after as well even if they’re stored in the chiller.

It’s worth noting that you want to store vegetables that are in good shape. That is to say, they don’t have bruising. Bruising speeds up the rotting process. So, it’s better to eat the bruised ones fresh and keep the better quality ones for later.

Additionally, it makes a big difference when you harvest them. Harvesting your vegetables when they’re at their peak ripeness allows them to store longer as well.

This chart shows you the best ways to store fresh vegetables, and which ones should you freeze, can or dry.

Chart of the Best Ways to Store Vegetables (freezing, canning, drying)
Chart of the Best Ways to Store Vegetables
  • Freezing. Freezing pertains to keeping your vegetables in the freezer. It’s the easiest way to make them last as long as possible. Many vegetables can be frozen whole. But, you can’t just throw them in there as is. The best way to freeze them is to blanch them first. Blanching is placing the vegetables in boiling water just for 1-2 minutes then immediately cool them off in ice water to stop the cooking process. After that, dry them and store them in plastic bags in the freezer.
  • Drying. Drying is a popular storage method if you don’t want to use refrigeration or freezing. Here, it’s handy to have a dehydrator although you can achieve the same results by baking them in an oven, using a stove set a very low heat or just leaving them under the sun to dry out.
  • Canning. Canning is a lot more work compared to the other two preservation methods above. But, it can also yield the best flavors, especially for tomatoes. That said, you do need to cook, boil and peel the veggies. Then, also sterilize the jars.
  • Refrigeration. Some fruits like cooler environments, which helps them stay fresh. This is s a good option for cauliflower, broccoli, peas, lettuce and herbs. When you do so, place them in bags and keep them moist.
  • On the Pantry or Counter. Peppers, tomatoes and garlic are just some examples of vegetables you can leave on the counter or pantry. They don’t need any special treatment and will store well this way.

How do you store vegetables?

Below is chart of vegetables including how to store them, how long they will store, the ideal temperature and humidity.

Chart on Storing Vegetables for Weeks & Months (Temperatures, Humidity, Duration)
Chart on Storing Vegetables for Weeks & Months (Temperatures, Humidity, Duration)

 

Where to Store Vegetables

Here are the best places to store your vegetables.

The chart shows the temperature and humidity requirements for storing fresh vegetables and if you should put them in room temperature, the crisper or in a cool, moist place.

chart on where to store vegetables (temperature and humidity for storage)
chart on where to store vegetables (temperature and humidity for storage)

 

 

Conclusion

Learning how to grow, harvest, store and preserve vegetables makes you self-sufficient. It also lets you make sure that the produce your family eats is fresh without additives and preservatives.