Don’t forget the cool season vegetable harvest

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The months of November and December seem to pass in the blink of an eye. Between all the hustle and bustle of the holidays do not forget about your cool season vegetables, planted in late summer and early fall. Harvesting these vegetables at the proper stage is important and will result in the very best quality.
Root crops, such as radishes, carrots, turnips and beets, are harvested when the root is the proper size. If the top of the root is not visible at ground level brush aside the soil at the base of the leaves in order to check. Radishes and carrots should be harvested when the root is approximately one inch across. While carrots may be left in the ground once mature, harvest radishes young, soon after they are ready. Radishes that remain in the ground too long will become pithy and hot. Turnips and beets are best when harvested at two to three inches across.
Broccoli heads can be removed from the field when they reach three to four inches in diameter, although on many occasions they reach much larger sizes. Look closely at the individual flower buds, the largest should be about the size of a kitchen match. Smaller side heads will develop after the main head has been cut, so leave the plant in place for a second and sometimes third harvest.
Harvest cauliflower when the curds of the head are still relatively smooth. Head size may vary from four to six inches to 10 to 12 inches across. Cauliflower that remains in the field too long will begin to separate and quality will decrease. Cut the head at the base of the plant, allowing the side leaves to remain attached. This will provide protection to the head during handling and also creates a nice looking appearance.
Cabbage is ready to harvest when the head is firm and the top leaf has begun to slightly curl back. Cabbage may be left in the field for several weeks after it reaches maturity. To prevent a mature head from splitting, rotate the entire plant 90 degrees. Doing this breaks some of the cabbage plant’s roots, slowing water uptake.
For more information contact the St. John Parish LSU AgCenter Extension Office at 985-497-3261 or visit
Mariah Bock is the LSU AgCenter county agent for St. John Parish. She can be reached by email at