Guide to Harvesting Grapes
Knowing how and when to harvest grapes is essential, regardless of whether you grow a few grapevines in your own back yard as a hobby or have acres of land full grapes for commercial purposes. Harvesting correctly is essential in deeming your crop a success or a failure.
Follow these steps to harvest a good crop of grapes.
Determine if Grapes are Mature
Remember, grapes must be mature before you can harvest them. You need to be very careful in judging whether your grapes have reached maturity or not, because unlike other fruit, grapes will not continue to ripen once they are removed from their vines. Harvesting growing grapes will ruin your entire crop. Since there is no particular way to know for sure if grapes have ripened, a numbers of factors are taken into account. These are:
- Skin and Seed Color Change: Harvesters check the changes in the color of outer skins of grapes as a sign of maturity. Some grapes turn from green to blue, or red and white. However, there are some varieties of grapes where color change is so light that chances of missing it are high, so this should not be the only consideration. Seed color changing from green to brown is also a major consideration taken into account as a sign of maturity.
- Berry Size: Upon reaching maturity, grapes stop growing in size.
- Tasting Grapes: Another way commonly used is to taste them right off the grapevine. They are ready to be harvested if they taste sweet.
Once you are sure your grapes are mature, it is time to harvest them. Harvesting can be done by hand or machine, depending on the scale of the operation, although many commercial farmers still harvest by hand.
Avoid Strong Sunlight
If you wish to harvest by hand, make sure you do so on a day when the weather is decent. If it is hot ,make sure you have plenty of sun block, a big hat and a long sleeved shirt.
Use a pair of shears that fit your hands comfortably, that you have oiled and sharpened beforehand. Using a pair too large or too small can adversely affect your harvesting efforts.
Clip Grape Clusters Carefully
When clipping a grape cluster off the vine, do it carefully by pulling the cluster away from the vine with one hand, and cut with the shears in the other. Leave some stem on the cluster to help you handle the grapes easily later.
Collect in a Tray
Keep the grape clusters in a shallow wooden box or tray away from direct sunlight, and cover them if possible as you shear them.
Store your harvested grapes in a cool, dry place. Make sure you wash them thoroughly before eating or cooking them.
Machines are used to harvest grapes grown on a large scale or for commercial operations. These are either pull type or self-propelled. They provide the convenience of working at night when temperatures are at the lowest, and provide a cleaner harvest since suction fans remove any leaves from the grapes.