Vegetable Harvesting Essentials--When To Pick

Vegetable Harvesting Essentials--When To Pick
Every novice gardener has done it — picked too early or waited too long to harvest their vegetables. Even experienced gardeners have been known to let excitement get the better of them when they see that first tomato turning red on the vine.

Since late summer and early fall is prime harvesting time, it is a good idea to go over some harvesting basics and give a few guidelines for the best time to harvest certain vegetables:

1. Tomatoes
Yes, it is tempting to pick these as soon as you see that they are red, but for the best quality and flavor, try leaving them on the plant for 5-8 days after they have gained full color. Then, at the end of the season, you’ll want to pick all the fruit before the first frost, regardless of ripeness. You can enjoy the classic “fried green tomatoes” or let them ripen indoors.

2. Zucchini
Zucchini will get huge if you let it – but don’t let it. These are best to pick when they are smaller and more tender. The ideal size is around 1 ½ inches in diameter and between 4-8 inches long. If you’re hoping for a few larger zucchinis at the end of the season, don’t worry – there always seems to be a few hiding that you don’t find until they have become rather robust.

3. Lettuce
Young leaf lettuce can be harvested pretty much as soon as it has reached the size you’d like to have it. If you are waiting for more mature and larger leaves, then harvest when they are between 4-6 inches long. For head lettuce, pick when the heads become somewhat firm but before they have formed seed stalks.
 
4. Carrots
Carrots can be a little tricky for some gardeners, since you cannot see what is happening with them under the soil. Examine the tops and harvest when the diameter is between ¼ to 1 inch. In order to get the best and sweetest flavor, try waiting until there has been a light frost. Be careful as you harvest, because bruising on this root vegetable can cause it to develop soft rot when it is in storage.

5. Beets
The tops of beetroots will begin to emerge as they become ready for harvest. Pick when they are between 1 ¼ to 2 inches in diameter.
 
6. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts should be harvested when the small heads reach between 1 – 1 ½ inches in diameter. They are easily picked by holding and twisting. In order to speed up the maturation of this vegetable, remove the lower leaves along the stem. Continue...

James Koroma

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