Harvest is a critical point for the quality of any product derived from plants. The optimum harvest time varies with the period of growth and development of a plant from crop to crop. For example, celery (stems), cabbage (leaves), and broccoli (inflorescences) are harvested during vegetative growth, and cucumber and beans are harvested as partially developed fruits. Maturity or stage of development at harvest can be viewed from either a biological or market perspective. Full development biologically is called physiological maturity, and satisfactory sensory quality is related to horticultural maturity (3).

Many crops present a narrow window for optimal harvest. Maturity at harvest affects yield, stability during storage and handling, susceptibility to bruising or other damage, nutrient composition, and the quality of an item at purchase and consumption. All these factors should be considered in determining the best time to harvest. With most vegetables, this decision requires a compromise between harvesting early enough to obtain tender, succulent quality and waiting to obtain better yield.

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