With our vegetable gardens in peak production, albeit a little later than in previous years, the question often arises as to when is the perfect time to harvest for maximum flavour and nutritional value.
To be at their best most vegetables need to be picked just at the right stage of maturity but some, like the potato, can be used at any stage from the time they come into flower or left in the ground till the following season.
'New potatoes' are 'bandicooted' at flowering and eaten immediately but once the skin has set, that is will not rub off easily, they can be kept for much longer.
To store potatoes wait until the leaves have died back before lifting, usually about five months from planting.
Some gardeners believe vine-ripened tomatoes have a much better flavour than those picked with the first flush of pink.
Here, flavour is mainly determined by the temperature the tomato is ripened at with the optimum being between about 16 and 24 degrees Celsius.
Later in the season when outside temperatures drop, mature green fruit can be picked and kept in a warm room to ripen.
Beans have a fairly short period when they are at their best for eating.
While the small immature pods are really nice to eat, they tend to wilt quickly once picked while over-mature pods are stringy and tough.
Pods are at their best just before the seeds start to swell.
The young pods of stringless varieties should snap cleanly and easily when bent.
Broad beans can be picked as the seeds begin to form when the whole pod can be thinly sliced and eaten or left till later when the seeds mature but before the pods start to dry out.
Peas are sweet and juicy when the pods are still bright green and before they start to crinkle.
Cook peas as soon as possible after harvesting as the sugars rapidly turn to starch.
Broccoli and cauliflower are ready when the flower buds are still tight and firm; cabbages as soon as the formed heads feel firm to the touch; zucchinis have a sweet, nutty flavour if picked when 10cms long and beetroot is best pulled when a golf ball size is reached.
For sweet corn wait until the silks at the top of the cobs turn a dark brown.
Another indicator is to peel back the sheath and press a kernel with your thumb nail - if it releases a creamy liquid it's ready to eat.
Consume immediately as corn loses its flavour quickly.
Hearting lettuce are cut as soon as the hearts are firm but before they begin to lose their green colour.
Pick the outer leaves of the non-hearting varieties leaf by leaf as needed leaving the inner ones to grow.
Brussels sprouts are at their peak in cold weather when they tend to lose some of their strong flavour and are about the size of a walnut.
Twist and snap each sprout from the main stem leaving the small sprouts further up to grow on.
Carrots can be left in the ground until needed while the flavour of parsnips is greatly improved after a few frosts.
March 16: Meeting of the Australian Plants Society Tasmania at the Max Fry Hall, Gorge Road, Trevallyn at 7.30pm. This is a club night where members will present on the topic 'Pollen and Pollinators'.
March 17: Launceston Horticultural Society's AGM, Windmill Hill Hall, 7.45pm. Guest speaker Bob Reid's topic is 'The trends of nurseries in the UK'.
Daily: Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, Burnie from 9am to 4pm. Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday.
The world-acclaimed 11ha woodland garden features 24,000 rhododendrons and companion plants in a magnificent setting. Tea room 9.30am to 4pm.
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