Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant - Harvest & Handling
An acre of tomato plants yields an average of 200 cwt/acre (1 cwt is equivalent to 100 lb.); however use of plasticulture techniques such as plastic mulch and row covers has been reported to increase yields up to 600 cwt/acre (Hemphill 2010). Tomatoes may be harvested at the mature green stage to the fully ripe stage depending on transport logistics and marketing requirements. Tomatoes closer to the fully ripe stage are more susceptible to surface and internal damage during handling; however, fully ripe tomatoes tend to have a superior flavor expected for direct market sales.
Pepper yields vary widely depending on plant spacing, production methods (use of plastics), and type of pepper. Average pepper yield ranges from 100 to 300 cwt/acre (Ngouajio 2009). Bell peppers are hand harvested by cutting from the plant leaving a one inch stem on the fruit, or carefully twisting the fruit to break the stem. Peppers may be harvested at the immature (green) stage or after the mature color develops. Pepper harvest starts about 30 days after flowering (mature green) and it takes an additional 10 to 20 days before fruits are fully colored.
Approximate eggplant yield is between 190 and 250 cwt per acre (Ivors 2010). Pepper harvest ranges from 10 to 40 days after flowering depending on the variety. Generally fruit are harvested immature before seeds begin to significantly enlarge and harden. High quality fruit is full size, firm, and glossy. Eggplant fruits become pithy and bitter as they reach an over mature condition.