Nothing beats fresh-picked vegetables picked from the garden, but timing is everything! Harvesting at the right stage is essential - proper storage will help maintain homegrown freshness.
Some crops are best harvested frequently while still immature, while others need to mature as long as possible. Crops also vary in their optimal storage requirements; some do best in cold, moist storage; others do best in dry storage.
The following crops are grouped by similarity of storage requirements.
Cold And Moist (32-40 degrees F)
Beet tops make excellent tender greens when roots are no more than 1 inch in diameter. If harvesting primarily for roots, begin digging when roots are 2-3 inches.
Carrots come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and even colors. Root quality will be best while on the young side; older roots get woody. Note the days to maturity listed on the seed packet. Fall-harvested carrots should be dug before the first moderate freeze.
Turnips can be harvested from the time they are 1 inch in diameter. They are best as a fall crop and can withstand several light freezes.
Broccoli should be harvested while the individual flower buds are still tight and of good green-blue color. After the main central head is cut, smaller heads will develop from side shoots.
Brussels sprouts should be cut as the small heads develop in the leaf axils, beginning at the bottom of the stem. Sprouts can withstand several moderate freezes; in fact flavor is said to improve after frost. Harvest all sprouts prior to the first severe freeze.
Cabbage should be harvested when heads are solid and full-sized for the cultivar.
Cauliflower is usually ready to harvest about two weeks after the heads appear. To keep heads white, tie outer leaves above the head when curds are about 1-2 inches in diameter (except purple types).