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July 11, 2012 8:28 PM

Picking Vegetables

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Picking Vegetables

By Pat Stone

 

It's surprising how fast homegrown crops can go from being too young to too old. How can you tell when they're just right? Depends on the vegetable:

 

Green Beans: Beans are most tender when their seeds are one-quarter normal size.

 

Broccoli: Cut when the heads are big but still tight. Small side shoots will develop for weeks afterwards.

 

Cabbage: Heads are full but haven't started to split. (To delay splitting, pull on the head until some upper roots snap.)

 

Cauliflower: To keep them white, tie outer leaves above the heads when they start to get big. Harvest a week or two later.

 

Corn: The silks are brown, and the ears feel full. To make sure, peel back the top and poke a kernel. If "milk" comes out, it's ready.

 

Cucumber: Get them just before they mature, when the spines are still soft and the seeds half-sized.

 

Eggplant: Bright, shiny, and full-grown? Prime. Dull color and brown seeds? Missed it.

 

Leaf Crops (Swiss chard, collards, kale, leaf lettuce, spinach): These are cut-and-come-again crops. Harvest some leaves continuously, and they'll keep producing as long as weather permits.

 

Okra: What you want are two- to three-inch-long pods that are easy to snap. Tough and woody is not.

 

Shell Peas: The pods are filled out but still light-green, not yellow.

 

Snow Peas: The pods are full-sized but not filled out.

 

Hot Peppers: Anytime--younger peppers are hotter. (At the end of the season, pull the entire plant and hang it upside down in a dry place.)

 

Sweet Peppers: Fruits are firm and full. (If you want to wait, they'll turn red!)

 

Potatoes: The tops have died down and the ground is dry.

 

Summer Squash: Young and tender. Check daily!

 

Winter Squash: A fingernail can barely scratch them? Harvest time.

 

Tomatoes: Fully colored but haven't turned soft = ripe.

 

You may find that the hardest thing is keeping up with the yields. But, hey, that's a good problem to have!

Pat Stone is the Editor of GreenPrints, "The Weeder's Digest," the prize-winning magazine that shares the personal side of gardening.

 

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