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The proper time to pick your vegetables

Want delightfully delicious vegetables from your garden? One of the secrets is picking them at the right time. Beets: Pull when 1 1/2 to 2 inches across. Older beets tend to get woody and crack.

Broccoli: When yellow flowers appear, you're too late!

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Brussels sprouts: Harvest when firm, compact, and bright green.

Cabbage: Heads should be firm and feel heavy for their size. If left on too long, they'll split open.

Carrots: A diameter of 1 to 1 1/2 inches is right. Larger carrots may get tough.

Cauliflower heads: These are ready for harvest when they reach a diameter of about 6 inches. Yellowing is a sign the heads are too mature or weren't blanched to prevent the sun from discoloring them. To blanch, cover the heads with some of the larger leaves when the heads are 2 to 3 inches across.

Cucumbers: If cucumbers aren't plucked as they develop, the next ones may not develop at all. Once fruits become soft and yellow, they're past their prime. Harvest while dark green and firm. Allowing cucumbers to overmature encourages the plant to produce only 10 to 12 cucumbers as opposed to 40 or 50. The same for peppers, squash, tomatoes.

Head lettuce: Harvest when about 4 to 5 inches in diameter.

Leaf lettuce: Harvest just as soon as leaves are big enough to eat.

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Onions: Harvest at suitable size. Leave in the ground until the tops have fallen over and turned brown.

Peppers: Firmness and thick walls signal picking time. Peppers should have a uniform color.

Radishes: Harvest as soon as they're big enough to eat. If left too long in the ground, they get woody and hollow.

Ripe tomatoes: Pick when they're uniformly red or yellow and firm. Mushy tomatoes and those that burst at the seams are past their prime.

Snap beans: Ready for harvest two to three weeks after they flower. Pods should show only slight bulges from the developing seeds inside. If left on the vine or bush too long, beans get tough and seedy.

Sweet corn: Tastiest when picked as the silk becomes dark and dry and the kernels become plump and milky. Kernels should pop open readily when squeezed.

Summer squash: Pick fruit when 6 to 8 inches long. As they get older and larger, they become tough and seeds get woody.

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