Herbs should be harvested when the oils responsible for flavor and aroma are at their peak. Proper timing depends on the plant part you are harvesting and the intended use. Herbs grown for their foliage should be harvested before they flower. While chives are quite attractive in bloom, flowering can cause the foliage to develop an off-flavor. Harvest herbs grown for seeds as the seed pods change in color from green to brown to gray but before they shatter (open). Collect herb flowers, such as borage and chamomile, just before full flower. Harvest herb roots, such as bloodroot, chicory, ginseng, and goldenseal, in the fall after the foliage fades.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers must be in excellent condition and have excellent quality if maximum shelf life is desired. The best possible quality of any commodity exists at the moment of harvest. From that point on, quality cannot be improved, only maintained. Remember that shelf life begins at harvest.
North Carolina’s climate and soils are well suited to grow many types tree fruits. This publication will focus on the three main tree fruits produced for market in North Carolina: peaches, apples, and pecans. In addition to these main crops, information on pears, persimmons, plums, nectarines, Asian pears, and figs is presented as they grow well in North Carolina’s temperate climate. These tree fruits require similar management regimes described in this publication.
Field heat should be removed from fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers as quickly as possible after harvest. Each commodity should be maintained at its lowest safe temperature.
The most important key to quality maintenance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers is careful handling; Tender Loving Care! Symptoms of injuries incurred during harvesting, handling, grading, and packaging usually are not evident until the products reach retail or consumer levels; too late to do anything about your quality image. Bruises and other mechanical damage not only detract from the appearance of the product, but are good avenues of entrance for decay organisms.
At times, it is necessary to transport or store different commodities together. In such mixed loads, it is very important to combine only those commodities that are compatible with respect to their requirements for: Temperature, Relative humidity, Atmosphere; oxygen and carbon dioxide, Protection from odors, Protection from physiologically active gases, such as ethylene.