Maine Harvest for Hunger: Produce Tips
Please check with your local food pantry in advance to see if they need any produce washed before delivery (especially root crops) and also how they would like the produce packaged.
The following weights are based on a loosely packed brown grocery bag (approximately 1350 cubic inches). Sizes of some fruits and vegetables vary, so please adjust the weights as necessary.
|Vegetable||Harvest||Amount = Weight (lbs.)|
|Beans||Bean pods will be the most tender when the small seed inside is one-fourth normal size. From this stage, the pods become more fibrous as the beans mature. Store green beans up to 1 week in perforated plastic bags in the warmer part of the refrigerator. Cool cellar storage is also possible. Ideal storage conditions are 45 to 50 degrees F and 80 to 90 percent humidity.||1 bag = 15#|
|Beets||Begin harvesting when beets are 1 inch in diameter. Beet tops at this time make excellent tender greens. The main harvest should occur when beets are 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Harvest fall beets before the first moderate freeze. For storage, wash roots, trim tops to 1/2 inch, place in perforated plastic bags, and store in refrigerator or cold, moist cellar. Storage life is 2-4 months. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||Greens: see spinach/mixed greens*Roots: 35 #|
|Broccoli||Harvest the terminal head while florets are still tight and of good green color. Smaller side shoots will develop for later harvest. Store in perforated bags for up to 1 week in refrigerator. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||*1 bag = 15 #|
|Brussels Sprouts||Harvest the sprouts (small heads) when they are firm — begin from the bottom of the plant. Sprouts can stand several moderate freezes. Harvest all sprouts prior to the first severe freeze, and store in the refrigerator in perforated bags for up to 3 weeks. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||*1 bag = 30 #|
|Cabbage||Harvest when the heads are solid. You can store cabbage in a refrigerator or cold cellar in plastic bags for up to 2 months. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||See cantaloupe|
|Cantaloupe||Harvest when the stem slips easily from the fruit. Lift the melon. If ripe, it should separate easily. Store ripe melons in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to 10 days. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||1 melon = 3#|
|Carrots||Carrots can be harvested as soon as they are large enough to use in salads. Fall carrots should be harvested before the first moderate freeze. For storage, wash roots, trim tops to 1/2 inch, place in perforated plastic bags and store in refrigerator or cold moist cellar. Storage life is 2 to 4 months. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||*1 bag = 31 #|
|Cucumbers||Harvest cucumbers when they are 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches in diameter and 5 to 8 inches long. (This will vary with variety.) Seeds should not be overly developed. Pickling cucumbers will be a bit more blocky and not as long as slicers. Store slicing cucumbers in the warmest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Storage life is about 1 week. Pickling cucumbers should be cooled quickly in ice water and kept up to 2 days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Ideal storage conditions are 45 to 50 degrees F and 80 to 90 percent humidity.||1 bag = 24#2 large cucumbers = 1#|
|Lettuce||Head, semi-head and leaf lettuce can be stored up to 2 weeks in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator. Refrigeration is highly desirable, but do not freeze. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||1 small head of loose leaf = 3/4#1 medium Romaine head = 1 1/4#|
|Onions||Harvest onions when tops have fallen over and the necks have shriveled. Remove tops, place in shallow boxes or mesh bags, and cure in open garage or barn for 3 to 4 weeks. Store in mesh bags in a cool place (45 to 50 degrees F and 60 percent humidity).||1 bag = 20#2 med/large = 1#|
|Peas||Harvest when pods have filled. For tender peas, harvest when a bit immature; for “meaty” peas harvest when mature. Unshelled peas can be kept in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for about a week. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||*1 bag = 18 #|
|Potatoes||Harvest when the tops have yellowed or died. Do not leave in the ground exposed to high soil temperatures from sun because this will accelerate over-ripening. Wash potatoes and remove any that are diseased or damaged. Cure for about a week in a shaded, well-ventilated place (open barn, shed, garage). Avoid exposing tubers to light. They will turn green with even small amounts of light. Store in as cool a place as possible (40 degrees F). Cool basements are probably the best storage available. Keep humidity high and provide good ventilation. Storage time is 2 to 4 months. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||1 bag = 30#|
|Summer squash||Harvest when fruit is young and tender. Skin should be easily penetrated with the thumbnail. This is usually when the squash are 6 to 8 inches long for yellow summer and zucchini squash. Can be stored for up to a week in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||3 medium squash = 1#|
|Spinach/mixed greens||Harvest the leaves and leaf stems of greens when they reach suitable size. Either harvest the whole plant or the outer, larger leaves. Wash and trim. Greens do not store well, but may be kept in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||1 bag = 1/2 #|
|Swiss Chard||This green may be harvested continuously. Merely break off the outer leaves. Swiss chard is a beet developed for its top. A spring planting will provide greens from early summer to the first moderate freeze. May be stored up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Ideal storage is 32 to 40 degrees F and 90 to 95 percent humidity.||See spinach/mixed greens|
|Tomatoes||Ripe tomatoes will keep for a week in the refrigerator at 45 degrees to 50 degrees F. Green, mature tomatoes, harvested before frost, should be kept at a temperature between 55 and 70 degrees F. For faster ripening, keep temperature high. Mature green tomatoes should approach normal size and have whitish green skin color. Mature green tomatoes can be kept from 3 to 5 weeks by wrapping each tomato in newspaper and inspecting for ripeness each week. A cellar where temperatures are about 55 to 58 degrees is satisfactory for holding mature green tomatoes.||1 bag = 40#2-3 medium tomatoes = 1#|
|Winter squash (These vary, so weigh if possible)||Harvest pumpkins and winter squash when skin is hard and the colors darken. Both should be harvested before frost. Remove the fruit from the vine with a portion of the stem attached. Store on shelves in a single layer so air can circulate around them.||Acorn = 2#, Buttercup = 4#, Butternut = 5#|
Harvest and storage information from A Donor’s Guide to Vegetable Harvest and Storage, UMaine Extension Bulletin #4303.
*Weight estimates from source unknown and adapted from Helpful Produce Facts, University of Missouri.