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Harvesting Vegetables From Your Garden

by Julie Bawden-Davis

The best part of growing a vegetable garden is harvesting the fruits of your labor. Knowing when and how to pick produce makes your vegetable gardening experience especially enjoyable.

Harvesting Vegetables From Your Garden

Timing

Harvest most vegetables just as they are starting to mature, at which point they will have the most flavor and the best texture. Waiting too long to harvest some vegetables—for instance, overripe, squishy tomatoes—can be disappointing.

Here are some popular produce items and some vegetable gardening tips as to when they should be harvested from your home vegetable garden:

  • Beans (snap)—Pick beans just as they are starting to fill the pod. They are also ready when they snap in two with ease.
  • Broccoli—Considering that we eat the flower heads when they’re unopened, it is important to harvest the heads when they are thick and bright green in color before they yellow or flower.
  • Brussels sprouts—Sprouts mature from the bottom of the stalk up, so you can start harvesting from the bottom. Twist or cut the sprouts from the stem.
  • Cabbage—Cabbage that is ready to harvest will feel heavy and solid.
  • Carrots—A thick cluster of carrot tops generally indicates that the carrots can be harvested. Carrots are also tasty when very small, so you can harvest them whenever you like. Just avoid waiting too long, because as they age, carrots become tough and fibrous and may split.
  • Corn—Harvest corn three weeks after the silks have formed. When you prick a kernel, it should emit a milky substance. A clear liquid coming from the corn kernels indicates that the veggie is not yet mature.
  • Cucumber—Cucumbers are best harvested before they’ve gotten large, at which point they may be bitter. Harvest cucumbers when they are just five to six inches in length.
  • Onions—Harvest onions after the tops fall over. Dry onions in the sun before storing.
  • Peas—Peas are generally ready to harvest when the pod is full, although it’s best to taste test before picking to make sure they are sweet.
  • Potatoes—For small fingerling potatoes, harvest when the tops begin flowering. For larger potatoes, harvest when the top of the plant has dried and browned.
  • Pumpkins—Pumpkins are ready for harvest when they have reached full size and the vines die back.
  • Summer squash—Squash is notorious for growing large amounts of fruit that can reach a gargantuan size if not harvested early. Pick squash on a daily basis.
  • Tomatoes—Harvest vine-ripened tomatoes when they are a deep color and give slightly when touched.
  • Watermelon—When the melon is ripe, the white spot on the bottom will transform to a deep yellow color. The fruit will also sound hollow when knocked on.


Careful harvest

Be cautious when harvesting veggies from your home vegetable garden. Bruised produce is unappealing and can quickly rot, spreading disease to other fruit and the plant itself.

Use pruning shears to cut vegetables from the plants. Doing this helps you avoid having to pull on plants for produce removal, which can lead to broken branches and even uprooting.

 

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