Harvesting Root Crops

By National Gardening Association Editors

After all your hard work, it's time to enjoy your harvest. Here's how to pick your crops.

Time to Eat!

Start harvesting beets and turnips early for their greens, and baby carrots when they're the size of your little finger. This will give you a good start on a long harvesting period; the roots left in the row will have more room to grow; and you won't be faced with an entire row of vegetables ready to be pulled on the same day. Besides, the smaller the root, the better it tastes!

For a few extra meals of beet or turnip greens, just go out and snip off the leaves you want. As long as you leave some greens on the plant, it will continue to grow more of them -- as well as growing a nice big root, too.

Pull the largest roots every time you harvest. People are tempted to leave the biggest ones, so they'll grow even bigger. Don't do it! By pulling the largest roots, you're sure to have them before they're so big they're all woody and bitter. Again, this encourages the remaining plants to fill in and grow bigger, giving you what seems like an inexhaustible supply of medium-sized, savory roots.

Once some root crops get bigger, you may have to wiggle them back and forth (or loosen them with a trowel, pitchfork or spade) to get them out. If a top breaks off in your hand, don't give up. Dig down into the soil and pull that root! If you water the soil before harvesting, the roots will pop out more easily.

Harvest whenever you need fresh roots, picking just enough. You should be able to enjoy all your spring-planted root crops in this fresh, garden-to-table fashion.

Where's the Biggest Carrot?

If you want to find the biggest carrot in the row just by looking at the greens, remember this: the bigger the root, the darker the greens and the thicker the stem. If some of the greens in the row look darker than the others, you can be sure the largest carrots are underneath. With beets, radishes or turnips, the greens with the thickest stems will point the way to the biggest roots.

Other articles in this series:
1. Harvesting Root Crops ← you're on this article right now
2. How to Store Root Crops
3. Winter Root Crop Gardening
4. Canning and Freezing Root Crops

This article is a part of our Vegetable Gardening Guide for Other Root Crops / Harvesting.

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