The Trick to Harvesting Vegetables at the Perfect Time

July 12, 2013 | 9:07 am

Fresh veggies everywhere! My six year old and I finished picking all of the peas, broccoli, and cauliflower yesterday.  Within days we will also be eating cabbage and green beans, too! The tomatoes are growing, but I think we are a week or two away from seeing red.

Through the years, I have gotten better at knowing when to harvest. Serving bitter lettuce and trying to fry up hard, stringy okra left its mark on my feelings. Gardeners all around will tell you that a taste test is a great indicator of readiness.

My little gardeners are always nibbling in the garden and are very vocal when something doesn’t taste right.  Soil, water, nutrients, and sun will affect the quality and taste of the produce; therefore, we cannot always rely on size and color of the produce to know when to harvest.  One reason I garden is for the taste of fresh picked vegetables. Nothing beats it!  To get the best flavor and texture, harvesting at peak ripeness is important. Lettuce will turn bitter, peas will get hard, and okra will get stringy if left on the plant too long. Knowing when to harvest is as important as knowing when to fertilize.

When I don’t know when to harvest, I go to the experts.

My favorite experts are fellow master gardeners and the well-educated staff at our extension office. The extension staff is supported by state land grant universities and they have science to back up their answers.  One publication that I have found very helpful is Harvesting Vegetables created by Clemson University.  It lists all vegetables and instructs readers on how to know when it’s time to harvest.

My taste buds are ready for fresh green beans, I think it’s time I go and perform a taste test! Happy harvesting!