Did You Know? Surprising Facts About Common Veggies

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Did You Know? Surprising Facts About Common Veggies
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Harvesting nature’s bounty keeps vegetable gardeners busy from mid-summer to late fall. But if -- like most gardeners – your interest grows as fast as your crops, you want to get all the dirt on your favorites. Unlocking these secrets can lead to the juiciest tomatoes, the crispest cucumbers, and the peppiest peppers. The more you know, the more you grow.

Picking Peppers Early Produces More
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Picking Peppers Early Produces More

If you pick bell peppers when they’re immature and green, each plant produces more peppers over the season. But letting peppers ripen in place may be the best nutritional bet. Red peppers contain about 10 times more vitamin A and two times more vitamin C than green peppers.

Vines Slow Down Corn-Stealing Racoons
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Vines Slow Down Corn-Stealing Racoons

Pumpkins can help keep raccoons from stealing your sweet corn – the vines act as barriers to would-be thieves. Squash, melon or cucumber vines work, too. Surround the rows with vines or plant them close enough to grow up the stalks like a trellis. You’ll lose fewer ears to masked bandits.

Even Good Apples Can Spoil Some Vegetables
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Even Good Apples Can Spoil Some Vegetables

Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers and leafy greens spoil faster when stored near apples. Ethylene, a gas produced by apples, is the culprit. Potatoes need to be separated from apples, too. Ethylene encourages them to sprout.

Some Veggies Prefer to Stay Warm
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Some Veggies Prefer to Stay Warm

Not all veggies belong in the refrigerator. Tomatoes lose flavor below 40 degrees F. (cold damages their membranes and prevents the development of flavor). Peppers, cantaloupe and snap beans develop pits and brown spots below 45 degrees F. Eggplant gets soggy below 50 degrees. Make room on the counter or in the pantry for these beauties.

Onions and Garlic Ward Off Pests
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Onions and Garlic Ward Off Pests

Even plant families have strange relatives. Lettuce and sunflowers are members of the Compositae family. Broccoli, turnips, cabbage and cauliflower belong to the mustard family. Garlic, onions and shallots -- members of the lily family -- are welcome in the garden despite their stink. The smell makes it harder for hungry pests to sniff out their favorite targets. But separate the onion family from asparagus, beans and peas. They don’t get along.

Cucumbers Keep Their Cool
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Cucumbers Keep Their Cool

Cucumbers really are cool, thanks to their high water content. On a hot day in the garden, the flesh inside a cucumber can be as much as 20 degrees cooler than the temperature of the surrounding air. After harvest, cucumbers should be refrigerated immediately and eaten as quickly as possible.

Tomatoes and Asparagus Make Good Companions
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Tomatoes and Asparagus Make Good Companions

Tomatoes contain solanine, an alkaloid that repels asparagus beetles. After the first harvest, plant tomatoes near the asparagus patch. The hungry pests will look for easier pickings elsewhere, leaving healthy ferns to send nutrients to the crowns. Also: Healthy tomato leaves can be juiced and made into a spray to prevent black spot on roses.

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