Harvest Tips for the Freshest Vegetables

CORN

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Few things say summer like sweet corn, picked just minutes before eating. Sweet corn starts converting its sugars to starch the second you pick it, so it’s hard to find sweet corn more tasty than that from your backyard.

Sweet corn takes space. It’s essential to plant a number of rows (more is better) because the ears are wind pollinated and they need the critical mass for best production. For this reason, it’s most efficient to plant corn in a block of short rows or hills rather than in a few long rows. Most stalks produce just one or two ears of corn, so plant plenty!

And do what the professionals do: Plant early-, mid-, and late-season varieties to ensure the longest season of harvest, several weeks in late summer. Choose from standard sugary (su), sugar-enhanced (se), and supersweet (sh2) varieties with yellow, white, or bicolor kernels.

Light: Sun Plant Type: Vegetable Plant Height: 4-8 feet tall Plant Width: 1-3 feet wide

If you grow newer corn hybrids, they’ll hold their flavor for a week or maybe more. But regardless of the type, it’s best to wait until the silks at the ear tips turn brown. Feel the ears and make sure they’re full and solid.

Garden Tip: If you’re not sure, peel back the shuck and pierce a kernel with your fingernail. If the juice looks milky, your corn is ready. If the juice is clear, give the corn a little more time.

Bean

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Snap beans, also called green beans, are one of those must-have vegetables in the garden. They’re easy to grow, are bothered by few pests, and if you choose a pole type, they take up hardly any square footage in the landscape. Or get creative and grow pole beans on fences or any other upright support

Beans come many colors, shapes, and sizes. Pods may be green, yellow, purple, or speckled. The plants range in size from 2 feet tall for bush types to pole types that may climb to 12 feet. A bean harvested when young, before the seeds fully develop, is called a snap bean. Once the seeds have reached full size, but pods have not turned brown, it’s called a shelling bean. After the pod dries and seeds mature, it’s called a dried bean.

Light: Sun Plant Type: Vegetable Plant Height: 24-30 inches tall (bush types); 8-12 feet tall (pole types) Plant Width: 18-30 inches wide

If you plant in mid- to late spring, beans continue to set through most of the summer if you keep picking them. For best flavor, pick them when they are thinner than a pencil.

Garden Tip: For variety, harvest some immature, or baby, beans and add them to salads. They have a slightly different flavor when they’re young.

Carrot

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Who knew you could have so much fun with carrots? You can always grow the traditional, large, orange-root types, but also have fun with the many different carrot now available for gardeners to grow from seed.

Classic orange-root carrots have been joined by new varieties in a rainbow of colors, ranging from red to white, yellow, and purple. They also come in a variety of shapes, including small, almost round, very large, and more cylindrical.

Carrots are loaded with vitamin A and beta-carotene, both known as antioxidants and cancer fighters. Use carrots raw in salads, or explore their uses in Indian salads. The juice from carrots is the health-buff’s staple. And they are, of course, fabulous in soups and stews or as a side dish. Cooking carrots makes the calcium in them more available, another nutritional bonus.

Light: Sun,Part Sun Plant Type: Vegetable Plant Height: 6-15 inches tall Plant Width: 6-15 inches wide

Carrots are fully ripe when their shoulders reach up out of the ground and the leaves turn a rich, darker green than they were during the growing season.

Garden Tip: If you get impatient, you can harvest carrots as soon as they’re large enough to eat. Plant extra so you can harvest baby carrots during the growing season while you wait for them to fully mature.

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