June 9, 2014, by Ken Jorgustin
After having successfully grown your vegetable garden to the point of producing a harvest, how do you know when is the best time to pick your vegetables?
Here are picking tips for many common vegetables:
Snap beans are best when the pods are firm and snap readily, but before the seeds within the pod develop. The tips should be pliable.
Harvest beets when they are 1-1/4 to 2 inches in diameter. The beet tops can also be eaten as greens. The leaves should be 4 to 6 inches long.
Cut broccoli when the buds are compact but before they turn yellow or open into flowers. Leave 5 to 6 inches of stem attached. Side shoots that develop in the axils of the leaves can also be used.
Cut the heads when they are solid, but before they crack or split. In addition to harvesting the mature heads, you can harvest a later crop of small heads or sprouts that develop on the stumps of the cut stems. The sprouts will be 2 to 4 inches in diameter and should be picked when they are firm.
Carrots are ready for use when they are young, crisp, and 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter. The sugar content is higher in mature carrots, but the younger ones are more tender. Carrots planted in the summer may be left in the ground until a killing frost. A straw mulch can be placed over the row so that the carrots can be harvested until the ground freezes solid.
Harvest before the heads become over-mature and “ricey.” The heads should be compact, firm, and white. To keep the head white, tie the outer leaves together over the center of the plant when the head begins to form. Cauliflower will grow 6 to 8 inches in diameter and is ready for harvest 7 to 12 days after blanching.
Pick corn when the silk turns dark and starts to shrivel. The kernels should be bright, plump, and milky. This stage occurs about 20 days after the appearance of the first silk strands. To harvest, snap off the ears by hand with a quick, firm, downward push; then twist and pull. Corn is at its prime eating quality for only 72 hours before becoming over-mature.
Cucumbers may be picked when they are 2 inches long or less for pickles, 4 to 6 inches for dills, and 6 to 8 inches for slicing varieties. A cucumber is at its highest quality when it is uniformly dark green, firm, and crisp. Cucumbers are past their prime if they are large, dull, puffy, and yellow. Remove old fruits from the vine so that young fruits will develop.
Harvest eggplant when the fruits are 6 to 8 inches long, glossy, and have a uniformly deep color. The fruits are over-mature when they become dull, soft, and seedy. Use a knife or pruning shears to cut the fruit off the plant. Leave the green calyx attached to the fruit.
Pull up the bulbs when the tops start to yellow and dry. Place the bulbs on screens to dry. When dry, trim the roots out close to the bulb, remove the loose outer sheaths, and store under cool, dry conditions.