Is It Ripe Yet?

Is It Ripe Yet?

Knowing when to pick vegetables for peak taste and texture is a skill many gardeners develop after years of trial and error. Generally, however, vegetables fall into two categories.


Pick-early, pick-often. Some vegetables deteriorate noticeably if they are left in the garden too long. For these veggies, the best bet is to pick them young and succulent. For example, most snap beans should be picked at the width of a pencil or thinner. If you see bumps from seeds on the bean pod, it has probably gone too long. Later in the summer, leave some of those pods on the vine until frost and save the seed for next year.


Cucumbers also need regular picking so they do not get big and seedy. Harvest them depending on your planned use. For pickles, about 4 inches long is a good length. If you plan to eat them fresh, let them get bigger. The early-and-often rule also applies to summer squash and, of course, zucchini. No one wants to eat a squash the size of a baseball bat. Check them everyday or at the most every other day to avoid zucchini monsters.


Other vegetables that taste better after an early harvest are broccoli (the flower buds should be closed), eggplant, most greens (start harvesting when the leaves are 4 inches tall on the outside), and radishes.



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About Tom McKusick 30 Articles
It is the mission of MSHS to serve Northern gardeners through education, encouragement, and community. Through a variety of educational programs, classes and conferences, and by publishing an award-winning magazine, Northern Gardener, MSHS helps its members and the general public to be better gardeners in USDA plant hardy Zones 3, 4 and 5. MSHS’ plant donation network, Minnesota Green, started in 1988, serves the greening efforts of volunteer gardeners throughout the state. Minnesota Green promotes grassroots efforts to revitalize communities by coordinating the donation and distribution of nurseries and greenhouse’s flowers and trees to be planted in public spaces statewide. MSHS was formed in 1866, as an association of fruit growers who took on the challenge of growing apples and other fruits in a northern climate. Two years later, the association became the Minnesota State Horticultural Society to recognize the importance of all phases of horticulture development in rural and urban Minnesota. In 1873, the Minnesota Legislature approved an act providing for the publication and distribution of 2000 copies of all the transactions of the society. 1894 marked the birth of one of the longest continually published horticultural magazines in the country: Northern Gardener, formerly known as Minnesota Horticulturist.