Best Time to Harvest Vegetables
Asparagus — Can be lightly harvested the second year after planting; harvest normally in the third year. Asparagus is best harvested when the spears are 6 to 10 inches tall but, before the heads open. Harvest by cutting or snapping the spears off at the soil line. Stop harvesting if the spears show a decrease in size. The harvest period usually last is 6 to 8 weeks.
Beans — For dry beans: Pods should stay on plants until dry and brown. Seeds should be full size.
Lima beans are best harvested when the pods are fully developed and seeds are green and tender. Snap beans should be harvested before pods are full sized while the seeds are tender (about one-fourth developed). Snap beans are usually ready 2 to 3 weeks after the first bloom. Don’t allow beans to mature on plants or bean production will decrease.
Beets — Are best harvested when the roots are 1¼ to 2 inches in diameter. Some varieties may maintain their quality in larger sizes.
Broccoli — Is best harvested when the flower head is fully developed, just before the flowers begin to open into bright yellow flowers. Cut 6 to 7 inches below the flower head. Side heads will develop after the main head is cut and also can be harvested as they develop.
Brussel Sprouts — Twist or snap sprouts from the main stem when they are hard, compact, deep green, and about 1 to 1½ inches in diameter. The lowest sprouts on the stalk mature first and plants and can be harvested for a month or more.
Cabbage — Can be harvested at any time after the head has become firm, but before it splits. Head size will vary based on variety, fertility, and spacing. Early cabbage, cut just beneath the solid head. Small lateral heads will develop from buds in the axils of the older leaves.
Carrots — Harvest carrots when they are ¾ to 1 inch in diameter or smaller when thinning. To store carrots, pull or dig the roots when they reach the appropriate size for the variety. Leave carrots planted for fall harvest in ground until a light frost occurs. Use care when harvesting. Bruising will cause soft rot during storage.
Cauliflower — Cover the heads when they are 2 to 3 inches in diameter by tying the outer leaves loosely up and over the heads, or by using leaves from other plants in the garden. Check for developing "curds" every couple of days, and retie if further development is needed. To harvest cut the heads from the underlying stem when they are 6 inches or more in diameter, but still white and smooth.
Celeriac — Reaches its best flavor after a frost. Harvest any time the root is 2 inches or more in diameter.
Celery — Harvest when the celery plants reach 10 to 12 inches tall by cutting the tap root beneath the plant.
Chicory — Harvesting for use of the greens, when leaves are 6 to 8 inches long.
Chinese Cabbage — Cut heads off at soil level before a hard frost.
Cucumber — Harvesting size is determined by the use. Sweet Pickles use, harvest when 1½ to 2 inches long; for dills when 3 to 4 inches long. For fresh slicing: when cucumbers are 7 to 9 inches long and a bright dark green. Burpless Cucumbers are harvested when 1 to 1½ inches in diameter and up to 10 inches long. Always leave a short piece of the stem on each cucumber. Try to harvest everyday and don’t allow fruit to mature or become yellow.
Eggplants — Are best harvested when firm and the skin is shiny and uniform in color. Fruit size and color should follow the variety standards. Cut egg[plants from the plant, leaving a short stem section attached.
Endive — Blanching the inner leaves when plants are about 10 inches tall. To do this gather and and tie the outer leaves around the inner section. Harvest, when the plant has been blanched and reaches a usable size, by cutting below the base of the head.
Garlic — Do not knock or bend over prematurely. Pull the garlic bulbs when leaves have dried. Allow to dry in a well-ventilated location out of direct sun.
Horseradish — Can be harvested by Digging the roots anytime after a hard frost.
Jerusalem Artichoke — Tubers can be harvested after a hard frost or left in the ground (with mulch protection) to over winter and harvested early in spring.
Kale — Plants may be harvested by cutting off the entire plant when leaves reach full size, or by periodically harvesting the lower leaves. The kale will continue to produce if you leave the crown and inner leaves.
Kohlrabi — Is harvested when the thick stem reaches 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
Leek — Harvest when green onion size if desired or when the stems reach ¾ to 1 inch in diameter.
Lettuce — Leaf types can be harvested when the leaves are a usable size or by removing the entire plant by taking the largest plant first, by thinning the row as the season progresses. Butterhead: by cutting every other plant at ground level when a loose head forms. Crisp head lettuce is harvested when heads are firm and full.
Muskmelon, Cantaloupe — Harvested at full-slip, meaning, a gentle nudge with your thumb on the melon where it joins the stem will dislodge the fruit
New Zealand Spinach — Can be harvested by cutting the young leaves and tender leaf tips when needed. Cut the plant back to encourage new growth.
Okra — Harvest the young pods when they are 3 to 5 inches long by cutting them from the okra plant. Wear gloves is helpful if okra is a spiny variety.
Onion — For Green onions, Thin by harvesting when onions are 6 to 9 inches tall for immediate table use. For storage onions, Harvest the seed or set the grown onions when 50 percent of the tops have dried and the bulbs are at least two inches in diameter. Harvest before hard frost.
Parsnips — Dig up the roots after a hard frost or wait until early spring before the new growth starts. If waiting until spring, place 3 to 5 inches of soil and mulch over the parsnips. It is said that Parsnips aren't poisonous at anytime during the first growing season or when left in the ground to over winter and then harvested in early spring.
Peas — Harvest garden peas when the pods have developed fully and still green and tender. Edible pod peas are harvested when the pods are fully developed and before the seeds are a little more than half-full size. Snap peas are harvested the same as garden peas.
Peanut — Harvest when plants turn yellow at season’s end or before the first early frost.
Pepper — Green or sweet: Harvest when fruits are full sized and firm. Colored cultivars will change from green to red, yellow, or chocolate if allowed to remain on the plant an additional two to three weeks or until they are completely colored. Hot: Usually harvested at the red ripe stage, except jalapeno peppers, which are harvested green. Always use caution when harvesting hot peppers to avoid irritation of skin, nose, or eyes.
Potato — New potatoes: Harvest at any early stage of development, usually 1¼ to 1½ inches in diameter. Storage potatoes: Harvest when full sized with firm skins, usually about two weeks after the vines die down. Tubers continue to grow until the vine dies.
Pumpkin — Harvest pumpkins when they are fully colored and the skins have hardened enough to resist the fingernail test. Harvest before a killing frost.
Radish — Pull when 1 to 1½ inches in diameter.
Rhubarb — Do not harvest the first year after planting; harvest only a few stalks the second year. Established plantings can be harvested for approximately eight weeks. The quality of the stalks decreases toward the end of the harvest period. Harvest only the largest and best stalks by grasping each stalk near the base and pulling slightly to one direction. Note: Freezing temperatures in spring or fall do not make the rhubarb stalks unsafe to eat.
Rutabaga — Harvest when the roots are full sized but before a heavy frost.
Soybean — Harvest when seed is filled out but still immature and before pods turn yellow.
Spinach — Pull plants to thin rows when small. Harvest full-sized outer leaves, but leaving the crown to regrow, during summer. Finally, harvest the entire plant when a seed-stalk forms.
Squash, summer type — Harvest when fruit is young and tender. Your fingernail should easily penetrate the rind. Long-fruited cultivars, such as zucchini, are harvested when 1½ inches in diameter and 4 to 8 inches long; scallops are taken when 3 to 4 inches long.
Squash, winter type — Harvest when mature. The rind should be firm and glossy and not easily punctured by your thumbnail. The portion that contacts the soil is cream to orange when mature. Leave a portion of the vine (2 to 3 inches) attached to the fruit to help prevent storage rot. Harvest squash before a heavy frost.
Sweet corn — Harvest when kernels are completely filled and in the milk stage. Use your thumbnail to determine this. The silks are dry and brown at this stage.
Sweet potato — Harvest in late fall before the first early frost. Sweet potatoes do not mature or ripen; harvest should be based on root size.
Swiss Chard — Small plants can be harvested and used as greens when thinning the rows. Cut large leaves and stems when they are fully expanded, leaving the crown to regrow.
Tomato — For peak quality, harvest when fruits are fully colored and firm. At temperatures near 90°F, tomatoes may soften before they are fully ripe. At this time, pick pink tomatoes and finish ripening indoors. Mature green tomatoes, those which have turned a whitish-green color, can be picked before the first killing frost and stored in a cool (55°F), moist (90 percent FH) place. When desired, ripen fruits at 70°F.
Turnip — Harvest when roots are 1½ to 3 inches in diameter.
Watermelon — Harvest when full sized and the rind in contact with the soil becomes cream to yellow in color.