Harvesting vegetables may seem like a simple task. "You just pick them when they look right". However, the goal is to harvest vegetables when they are at their best - the most tender and sweetest. A number of vegetables if not picked at the optimum time become stringy, woody, or tasteless, which cancels out the hard work put into planting and taking care of them. It's always advisable to harvest when it's cooler, such as evenings or early mornings, since plants tend to be at their best and will maintain that
Here are a few guidelines to ensure that vegetables are harvested at their optimum.
If plants were started from root crowns, you may be tempted to harvest in the second year, although it's advisable to wait until the third year. Plants that are started from seed, require at least 3 years before the harvest of the spears. The spears may be harvested over a 2 week period during the third year. In the fourth and subsequent years,
Green beans indicate maturity by the smoothness and greenness of the pods. Snap beans are ready to pick if they snap easily when bent in half. Once pods begin to turn yellow and the beans start to become apparent (a corrugated look), the snap beans will be tough. Yellow beans varieties should also be picked before they appear corrugated. Days to maturity for beans
Beets may be harvested as soon as they reach 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. They are excellent at 2 inches (5 cm), but over 3 inches (7.5 cm) they become tough. The tender inner leaves can be used for pot greens. Beet greens make excellent borscht (beet soup).
Cut broccoli when the individual buds in the clusters are still tight. Once buds open, the broccoli has a stronger
For a better harvest, snip off the top 3 cm (1 inch) of the plant in late August to encourage the side sprouts to grow. You may start picking the lower sprouts when they are between 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm) in size. Sprouts should be bright green and firm. If the weather stays cool, one could expect 100 of these "tiny cabbages" per plant. Don't harvest too early - Brussels sprouts hit by a light frost tend to be less bitter / sweeter tasting.
These may be harvested as small as 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter and continued until 6-10 inches (15-25 cm). The heads should be firm at harvest, but don't wait too long. A prolonged harvest may result in split heads. Maturity may take 2-3 months, depending on the year.
Tiny sweet carrots can be harvested at 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) long. The remainder can be allowed to grow to about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Once the carrots reach 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) or larger, they will be woody. Maturity time from seed to harvest is 65-80 days depending on the carrot variety and environmental conditions such as weather.
The head is made up of small segments resembling cottage cheese curds. For the best
(SWISS) CHARD & SPINACH
Pull off outer leaves as they mature, making sure to leave a central tuft of leaves to maintain the plant. Chard leaves are best harvested when they are 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) long and spinach 4-6 inches (10-12.5 cm) long. Swiss chard and spinach need 45-65 days to mature.
Harvesting corn at the right time can be vitally important when it comes to
After picking the cobs, cool them as quickly as possible, by plunging the ears into ice water and store in the refrigerator. Once cobs are picked, they immediately start changing sugars into starches, especially in warm temperatures. Corn requires 65-90 days to mature, depending on variety and environmental conditions.
Cucumbers should be picked when they are still green and about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long for sweet pickles, 6 inches (15 cm) for dills and 8 inches (20 cm) for slicing. Picking 4-5 times a week will encourage continuous production. Do not leave mature fruit on the vine. Cucumbers are past their optimum stage once they turn yellow, form a tough skin and have tough seeds. Days to maturity vary between 55-70 days.
Green onions are best harvested when the stem reaches the thickness of a pencil. Leeks are harvested when the stem diameter reaches 1/2 - 1 1/2 inches (2-4 cm). Garlic is ready to be pulled when 1/3 of the top has died back.
Bulb onions may be gathered as needed or when tops start to bend over and yellow. If they are still actively growing by the beginning of September, the tops should be bent over to start a bulb curing process. Onions should not be subjected to a heavy frost or the bulbs will be ruined. If they do not cure on their own or conditions are not
Garlic requires a curing period of about 20 days at 20 degrees C (or 10-14 days at 27 degrees C) with a lot of air movement.
The outer leaves should be harvested before yellowing or browning occurs. If the stand is thick, entire plants may be cut off, allowing the remaining plants more room to develop. Head lettuce should be firm before it is picked. In semi-heading types the
Harvest the pods just before they appear round in
Peppers may be harvested with a sharp knife; at any size when the fruit is dark green. If you would like a few red peppers for
Wait until the fruit is a deep orange. If you cannot sink your fingernail easily into the rind, the pumpkin is ripe enough to put directly into storage. By this time, the vines will usually be drying. If the pumpkin is not mature, it may be left on the vine until after a light frost. However, if the average daily temperature is below 15
Thinning and eating may start when radishes are the size of marbles. Radishes may
Common green zucchini is best harvested when 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) in length, yellow types at 4-7 inches (10-17 cm) and patty pan (scallop types) when 3-5 inches (7-12 cm) in diameter. Summer squash larger than this will develop hard skins and large inedible seeds. Spaghetti squash may be harvested when golden yellow and banana squash picked when golden orange. Winter squash are cut with a few inches of
Tomatoes reach full
- When to pick a vegetable, by Warren Asa.
- Step-by-Step, Planting Asparagus, by Rosalie H. Davis.
- Hortideas; September 1990.
- Growing Garden Potatoes; Agriculture Canada; Publication 1559 E.
- Harvesting and Storage of Onions, by D.H. Dabbs; Department of Horticulture Science; University of Saskatchewan; Saskatoon.
- The Pumpkin Comes in all Shapes and Sizes, by Grant Wood;