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Take the guesswork out of harvesting vegetables

Last Modified: 5/22/2018

With the perfect combination of nurturing sunlight and nourishing rain, your garden should start producing food sometime soon. We invited Elle Hall, dietetic intern, to provide foolproof tips for knowing when your crops are ready to pull, plus a delicious superfood recipe.

Deciding when it’s best to enjoy the fruits – or vegetables – of your labor can often be a guessing game. Follow these guidelines to ensure you’re harvesting your produce at the best time.

Snap beans: Harvest when the small seed on the inside is ¼ of its normal size. This will ensure the most tender beans.

Carrots: Harvest at 1-2” thickness before the hottest temperatures of the summer or the first frost, depending on planting season.

Sweet corn: Wait to harvest until the corn feels full through the husk. Test a kernel for milky liquid; if it’s there, it’s ready!

Cucumber: Best when 1 ½ - 2 ½ inches in diameter and 5-8” long.

Kale: Harvest leaves and stems when they reach a suitable size. Frost improves flavor!

Spinach: Harvest when leaves are suitable size. Break off the outer leaves of the plant as it grows, or harvest all at once. Fall spinach should be harvested sparingly to allow for spring regrowth.

Eggplant: Harvest when nearly full-grown and color is bright and shiny. Eggplants are overripe when the seeds are brown and color dulls.

Rhubarb: Stalks should be harvested when ½-1” in diameter. Do not use the leaves!

Garden peas: Harvest when pods are light green and filled out, but before they yellow. Flat, dark green pods are immature.

Sweet peppers: Harvest when fruits are in firm and full size.

Summer squash: Best when young and tender. Skin should be easily penetrated with thumbnail.

Tomato: Harvest when uniformly red, but before the end softens. Ripe fruit sinks in water, but they will continue to ripen off the vine if picked when green.


Once you have your harvest, whip up this wonderful recipe for a tasty treat.

Superfood Salad

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup real maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
1 cup edamame or snap peas
¼ red onion, thinly sliced or chopped
1 cup shredded carrot
2/3 cup blueberries
½ cup cashews
½ cup sunflower seeds or whichever nuts you prefer

Mix Dressing ingredients together. Combine Salad ingredients in a bowl. Pour Dressing over Salad and enjoy!

More Salad Suggestions:

  • Diced or sliced tomatoes + fresh basil + crumbled feta cheese
  • Brown rice or quinoa + shredded chicken + shredded cabbage + fresh cilantro
  • Diced or sliced cucumbers + peach + radish + toasted walnuts
  • Strawberry + chopped asparagus + avocado
  • Cheddar cheese cubes + diced apple + celery + toasted walnuts
  • Diced avocado + grapefruit 

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