(Article and photo by Jacob Williams in conjunction with Towns-Union Master Gardener Association and the UGA Extension Office)
One question that people will call me with is how to tell if a fruit or vegetable is ripe or not. Different plants ripen differently. Some will continue to ripen after they’ve been picked, others need to ripen attached to the plant. Let’s talk about what causes plants to ripen and how to tell if some common fruits and vegetables are ripe or not.
Fruits and vegetables are divided into climacteric and non-climacteric. The difference between these groups is their response to the hormone ethylene. Ethylene is a hormone that plants produce to induce ripening. Climacteric fruits and veggies will continue to ripen after they have been picked. Non-climacteric fruits and veggies won’t continue to ripen. Instead, they will soften and rot as they age. Some crops are sensitive to ethylene and so shouldn’t be stored with climacteric crops that produce ethylene.
Apples, pears, peaches, plums, potatoes, and tomatoes are some examples of climacteric plants. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, strawberries, peppers, squash, and watermelon are all examples of non-climacteric crops. Some examples of plants that are sensitive to ethylene and so shouldn’t be stored with climacteric crops are asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, kale, onions, peas, peppers, squash, and watermelon.
Now that we know a little more about the ripening process let’s talk about how to tell when the best time to pick some of the most commonly grown crops around here are.
Tomatoes are an easy one to tell when they are ripe because they start to turn red. You can pick tomatoes before they are fully ripe on the vine. Because they are climacteric, they will continue to ripen. I’ve put tomatoes up in the kitchen windowsill so that they’ll ripen. Sometimes it is advantageous to pick something before it’s fully ripe so that you make sure critters don’t get it before you.
Apples and pears can be a little more challenging to tell when they are ripe. Different varieties will ripen at different times. In addition, the entire tree may not ripen at the same time. If the apple or pear stem breaks away easily from the tree then it’s ripe. Turn the fruit sideways to see if it pops off. Depending on the variety, you can use color to tell if the fruit is ripe. If you cut an apple open and the seeds are dark brown, it’s ripe.
Blueberries will be plump with a deep blue color. They also have a white powder on the skin that keeps them fresh longer.
Squash and zucchini should be harvested when they’re 4-8 inches long. They’ll both grow longer if left on the vine, and you can still eat them if they’re big, but they get tougher as they age. You should be able to push your fingernail into the skin.
Sweet corn is ripe when you can puncture a kernel with your fingernail and milky fluid comes out. As soon as corn is picked, it starts to lose flavor. Refrigerate it to retain flavor.
Pick peas when the pods have plumped out. If they start to wrinkle, they’re getting overripe. You can always open a pod to see if the seeds are swollen, but still tender. Beans are ready when you can see the seeds bulging through the sides of the pod.
Pick peppers when they are shiny green. If you let them sit on the bush longer and they start to change to orange or red and they’re getting hotter. If that’s what you’re looking for, let them sit.
If you have questions about when plants are ripe contact your County Extension Office or email me at [email protected]
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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – The Union County Canning Plant will open on July 7 by appointment only. Also, the cannery will be limited to 11 groups per time slot.
The cannery will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and no walkups will be accepted.
Those interested in canning must call (706) 439-6043 in advance. Appointments will be scheduled in two different time slots: 6 a.m.-8:45 a.m. and 9 a.m.-11:45 a.m. The cannery asks that no one brings extra product to be canned at one time. The timed appointments will have set limits and can’t be extended to accommodate overages.
Upon first visiting the cannery, visitors must sign a 2020 Registration Form/Waiver to receive their canning number for the year. If forgotten, the numbers will be posted. Each individual will be assigned a table and asked to remain at their for most of the canning process. After washing the food, they should notify a cannery worker if the food needs to be cooked or steamed. Staff will also sterilize jars, but canners should write their registration number on can lids with Sharpie and immerse them in hot water. Also, canners must fill their jars with the hot product and put lids on jars. A staff member will take it from there and give canners a designated time to return and pick up the finished cans.
See the cannery guidelines below:
Use of the Canning Plant will be by appointment only. No walkups will be accepted. Appointments will be limited to 11 groups per time slot. No children under 13 will be permitted in the Canning Plant under any circumstances.
All persons entering the Canning Plant shall be screened for cough, fever, and recent exposure to COVID-19. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater will not be permitted to enter the Union County Canning Plant.
Face masks or face covering are required to enter the Union County Canning Plant. An appropriate face mask or face covering is one that covers the wearer’s nose and mouth with fabric or filter material. Gloves are also required inside the Canning Plant.
Maintain proper social distancing while inside the Canning Plant.
What to bring: Jars, lids (Ball or Kerr), bands, product to be canned, your recipe, and all ingredients.
Brief History of Canning
BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Last night, during the Union County BOE Meeting, Superintendent Hill expressed his thanks, appreciation, and gratitude for the staff of Union County Schools.
He recognized the school nutrition staff, who have served a total of 132,000 meals. Children in Union County will continue to receive meals until June 25th.
Hill also acknowledged the police department’s efforts. The officers gave out 600 twenty-pound boxes of produce to the community.
The superintendent stated that the entire faculty and staff went “so far above and beyond.” He acknowledged their long hours working for the students. Their efforts weren’t limited to meal service, education, or sanitization. Coach Corey Garrett developed an online workout program for students.
Lastly, Hill commended staff who completed the summer preparation early. He also acknowledged Union County High School Principal C.T. Hussion for hosting “the best graduation in the United States.”
Superintendent Hill said, “I couldn’t be more proud of our staff. Every single employee in this district has done more than we’ve asked.” The BOE plans to honor and recognize all the hard work from the entire staff. Hill states that once social distancing is lifted, the BOE will need to have a meeting in the fine arts center to recognize everyone’s hard work. This meeting will be, as Hill adds, ”a long, but a good one.”
The BOE also voted unanimously to renew the Union-Towns contract for Alternative Education. This allows alternative students from Towns county to attend Union County Alternative School.
Additionally, the BOE unanimously voted to renew the Family Connection contract for the 2021 fiscal year. Family Connection has provided students with anything they need such as shoes, food for the weekend, or a trip to the health department.
Dr. Paula Davenport states, “Anyway they can help they find a way to do it.”