Many homegrown fruits and vegetables can be plucked and eaten right out of the ground, off the vine, tree or shrub. Try to harvest when the plant is at its best stage of eating.
As a general rule, harvest in the early morning after the dew has dried or in the cool of the evening.
If the vegetables are warm when harvested, remove the heat by submerging them in cold water — especially cucumbers and corn.
Rules for storing vegetables vary per crop and are dependent on the humidity and temperature of the refrigerator or non-refrigerated location. Most cool-season vegetables like lettuce and beets store well at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (most home refrigerators are between 32 and 40 degrees). Most warm-season vegetables like peppers and cucumbers store best around 50 degrees, so place them in the refrigerator doors, where it’s a bit warmer. Garlic, onions, potatoes and winter squash should be stored in a dark, dry, cool location. If produce isn’t quite ripe, leave it at room temperature to mature.
Tomatoes should be left on the vine until ripe. Beans, cucumbers, eggplant and summer squash taste best when picked slightly immature. All but whole tomatoes should be stored in the refrigerator. Store all leftover sliced tomatoes in the refrigerator.
Pick cucumbers when moderately sized: picklers between 3 and 4 inches, standard slicers between 6 and 8 inches. If left too long on the vine, they turn yellow, get bitter and seedy. The more you pick, the more cukes you’ll get.
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Most corn cultivars are ready to harvest 20 days after the silks appear. Also look for dried brown silks and plump kernels at the top of the ear. A crushed kernel will be milky if ripe, clear if immature. Give ears a sharp, downward snap to remove and immediately plunge into cold water and eat right away. For short-term storing, husk, seal in plastic bags, then refrigerate and store at 32 degrees.
Pull carrots (depending on the variety) when they are 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter at the top. Green tops won’t hurt you; they just received too much sun. Carefully loosen the soil along the top with a garden fork before pulling. After harvest, remove the tops, leaving a 2-inch stem. Brush off dirt, but don’t wash if they will be stored.
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Source:: The Denver Post – Lifestyle