The flavor of garden vegetables depends primarily on the natural flavor of the vegetable, but is also influenced by the growing conditions, harvesting and preparation. Understanding and providing for the plant's needs, harvesting at the appropriate time and observing proper cooking techniques preserves natural flavors and may increase the nutritional content of the vegetable, as well.
Follow the recommended planting instructions for the plant. This includes light exposure (typically six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day), soil preparation (including adjusting the pH level), seed depth and seed spacing.
Provide fertilizer following the recommendations for your soil and the specific plant. Too much or too little fertilizer affects the overall health and flavor of vegetables.
Supply water as needed to promote lush growth. Although vegetables vary in the amount of water required, as a rule, 1 inch of water per week is sufficient. Deep watering once a week is preferred to frequent light watering.
Harvest at the right stage for the best flavor. Some vegetables, like cucumbers, beans, zucchini and summer squash, are best harvested when young, as they become tough and lose flavor at maturity. Others, like tomatoes, should be allowed to ripen fully on the vine before harvesting.
Use fresh vegetables as soon as possible after harvest. Crops like corn lose flavor quickly once they are harvested, as the sugar in the corn is converted to starch after harvesting.
Keep vegetables refrigerated (with the exception of tomatoes and melons) to preserve flavor until serving time.
Wash vegetables to remove any pesticides, insects or soil residue. Check for signs of insect damage or disease. Discard discolored or damaged foliage and/or vegetables.
Observe proper cooking techniques. Overcooking reduces flavor. Fresh vegetables should be firm and retain the original shape and texture. Stir-fried vegetables should be tender but crisp. Avoid boiling in water, as this reduces the flavor and nutrients.
Serve immediately after cooking for the best flavor.
About this Author
Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.