JoAnne Skelly: When to pick apples

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When are apples, pears or vegetables ripe and ready to pick? Size and color are not always reliable in determining picking time for apples and pears. They develop to the highest quality when picked “mature,” a stage of development prior to “ripe.” Ripe means ready for eating. The “lift and turn” method is a good way to tell if apples or pears are ready to be picked. A mature apple or pear will fall off the tree when held in the palm of the hand, gently lifted, and turned. If you have to pull, tug or yank the fruit, it’s not ready to be picked.

The rule of thumb (is that the green thumb?) for vegetables is to harvest early, often and at their peak tenderness and flavor. Frequent harvest prolongs the production time, so the more you pick, the more that grows. Pick veggies in the early morning and use them soon after harvest.

Pick squash (zucchini, acorn, crookneck) while they’re still small. You can pick Serrano and Jalapeño peppers while still in the green stage or after they turn red. I prefer green peppers when they have ripened to red. Fresh beans should be picked before the seeds have begun to swell inside the pod. Dried beans are ready when the pods are completely dry and beans can hardly be dented when bitten. Beet greens are best as soon as they’re large enough to use, whereas the beet itself needs to be about one inch in diameter before digging. Gently move the soil away from the top of the beet to see if it’s big enough. It’s recommended to harvest pumpkins when they’re fully colored and the shell is hard, or after a frost kills the vine. When cutting a pumpkin or winter squash from the vine, leave several inches of stem on the pumpkin. Then, let the pumpkin age in the garden for two weeks (as long as it doesn’t freeze) to harden the skin. It will keep for several months, indoors at 50 degrees.

Potatoes begin developing when the plant flowers. They can be dug at any size of your choice. When the foliage dies back, the potatoes are mature. All potatoes should be dug before a hard freeze or they will rot in storage. Dry without washing and store in well-ventilated boxes or bags at a temperature of 40 degrees.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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