Fruits and vegetables are often tested for ripeness by their size, weight, firmness, color, and sometimes even their smell. Like many gardeners, I don’t like seeing my homegrown crops go to waste because I picked them too soon or too late. This is why I keep a guide handy to refer back to when I’m unsure if my crops are ripe and ready to be harvested.
While the color varies by type, apples are generally ripe when they have hard, tight skin. You’ll likely notice when your apples are ripe, as a few healthy apples will drop to the ground or they’ll separate easily from the tree.
As potatoes are grown underground, you can’t easily check their firmness and color to determine ripeness. Instead, check the foliage condition and elapsed growing days. Dig into the ground at the base of the plant after the potatoes have flowered but while they are still leafy and green. Harvest any potatoes bigger than a golf ball.
Ripe strawberries develop an even red hue on all sides, and all green areas are gone. Squeeze the strawberry to test it (but be gentle to prevent bruising). A mature strawberry is slightly soft, while hard or firm strawberries are not yet ripe.
Harvest spring radishes within 30 to 60 days after sowing and fall and winter radishes 50 to 60 days after sowing. To see if the radish is the right size for harvesting, dig down into the dirt. You want to harvest when the roots are roughly an inch in length.
When determining the ripeness of a peach, you’ll first want to look at the color. Ripe peaches are a deep golden color. Also, squeeze the peach gently with your fingers. If there is any give, the fruit is not quite ripe. A peach is also ready to eat when you see shriveled skin around the stem.
Ripe onions have a diameter of three to five inches on average. Squeeze the plant about two inches above the bulb to check the soft spot on top. This soft spot indicates that the bulb is done growing.
When cherries are ready to be harvested, they will be fully colored and firm. Sour cherries come off the stem easily when ripe, while sweet cherries should be taste-tested for maturity.
Ripeness for peas will depend on the variety planted. Sugar snap peas should be tender and have immature seeds when you harvest their pods. Snow peas are ripe when the pods are developed but before pea seeds appear. English garden peas should be harvested when the peas are tender.
Oranges are generally ripe when they develop a thin, smooth skin with no soft spots. Ripe oranges are firm and slightly heavy. Remember, the heavier the orange is, the riper it is.
Cucumbers should be harvested about eight to ten days following the first female flowers opening. The cucumber should be a medium to dark green color and should feel firm when squeezed. Depending on the variety, cucumbers can grow anywhere from five to 16 inches in length.