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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.


The way to any man's heart is through his stomach. The best way to approach anybody's stomach is to tantalize their taste buds with fresh vegetables. Luckily, the best-of-the-fresh are available NOW in this area of Texas for those who know where to look.

One of the few good things Jim Hightower did when he was Commissioner of Agriculture of Texas was to start the Texas Farmer's Markets. These markets furnish farm fresh produce from small volume, local growers selling directly to consumers in markets distributed all around the area. Before the Texas Farmer's Markets were started, a longtime vegetable growing family named Verstuyft began selling some of their produce on the frontage road of Interstate 35 South. Thirty-five years later, they still grow and sell the best produce in Texas at the most reasonable prices.

At this time of the year, Verstuyft Farms (Tel: 210-622-3423) have the best-of-the-best vegetables available by the sack-full or the trailer-load. To get to this originator of direct-to-consumer sales in the San Antonio area, travel Interstate 35 South towards Laredo, exit at Loop 1604, stay on the I-35 South access road for another mile and turn right into a good-eating produce heaven. I checked with these folks to see what is available now. Of course, they are not open on Sundays but every other day of the week from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. (5 p.m. on Saturdays), the following mouth-watering delights are available. What vegetables do this fat-boy-from-Tennessee recommend and what are the best recipes to use? The following fresh vegetables and tried-and-proven recipes are so wonderful that you will be more than glad you read this article and made the trip to the Verstuyft farm or a local Farmer's Market. Some harvest hints from the Verstuyfts are:

Beans, snap - For maximum tenderness, harvest before maturity when pods are almost full size but before seeds begin to bulge. Should be free from scars and without strings when snapped. Keep cold (45' to 50' F.) and humid and use as soon as possible. Washing before storage helps retain moisture content.

Corn, sweet - Watch for signs of ripeness for earliest harvest. Corn silks darken and dry out as ears mature. As kernels fill out toward the top, ends become more blunt instead of pointed. Pick sweet corn in the milk stage, when a milk-like juice exudes from kernels if crushed with a thumbnail. Sweet corn is very susceptible to rapid sugar-to starch conversion; therefore, cook, eat or chill immediately after harvest. For more about sweet corn, see:
For more about how to roast corn in your own backyard, see the images at: taken of the king of corn roasting, Malcolm Beck.

Cucumber - Harvest when fruits are bright, firm and green before they get too large. A good rule of thumb is as follows: sweet pickles - 1 ½ to 2 inches long; dills - 3 to 4 inches long, bright green in color and less crisp. Avoid yellowed cucumbers. Store in refrigerator 5 days. Do not try to pickle salad-type cucumbers. For the best Bread-and-Butter pickle recipe you ever laid your lips on, see:

Okra - Three to 4 inches is an optimum length for harvesting before pods reach the hollow, puffy stage and while they are easy to break or cut from stalk. Pick okra every day or two for continued harvest. Chill immediately. For the best onion ring/okra batter recipe and how to make it stick during frying, see:

Onion - Ideal bulb diameter is 2 to 4 inches. Pull all onions when tops fall over. Remove adhering dirt. Do not harvest when soil is wet. Let dry for a day or two with tops on; then clip 1 inch above bulb before storing in a cool dry place. Harvest green onions when 6 to 8 inches tall. For more about onions and the history of onions in Texas, see: For onion recipes, see the section Favorite Onion Recipes at: /Recipes/recipes.html

Peas, Black-eyed or Cowpeas - If you expect to shell the peas, harvest pods when they are shiny green and fully developed. Overly mature peas are poor quality. Deterioration proceeds rapidly at high temperatures. Wash and chill immediately. The Verstuyfts have a mechanical pea sheller so all you have to do is cook and eat! For more about black-eyed peas, see:

Peppers - Harvest bell peppers when they are 4 to 5 inches long with full, well-formed lobes. Immature peppers are soft, pliable, thin fleshed and pale. Harvest jalapenos when they are 2 to 2 ½ inches long. Mature peppers turn orange or red; this does, not mean they are hotter. Store at 45 to 50 F. For some great hot pepper recipes from retired Bexar County Extension Agent-- Home Economist Shirley Johnson, see:

Potatoes, Irish and "new" - For Irish potatoes, a good tuber size is 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Individual preference is the rule here. Harvest "new" potatoes at any size but generally do not dig before tubers are 1 1/4 to 1 ½ inches in diameter. Let potatoes dry several hours in garden after digging. Do not expose potatoes to sunlight for any length of time. Remove adhering soil but do not wash before storage. Store in cool, dry area. For more information about potatoes, see:

Squash - Harvest when fruit is 4 to 6 inches long for yellow crookneck squash 6 to 8 inches for yellow straight neck and 3 to 4 inches in diameter for white scallop. Glossy color indicates tenderness. Harvest winter squash when fruits are full size. The rind is firm and glossy and bottom (portion touching soil) of fruit is cream to orange colored. Light frost will not damage mature fruit. Squash, like cucumbers, are susceptible to chilling injury; do not store at cold temperatures for more than 2 to 3 days. For some great squash recipes, see the listing at: /Recipes/4hrecipes/fruits/fruitsandvegetables.html

Tomatoes - Harvest when they are fully colored but still firm. Harvest red tomatoes for eating fresh cooking or canning. Do not can overripe tomatoes! If necessary, pick mature green or slightly pink tomatoes and ripen at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. This will not affect flavor and may save loss due to insect, bird and/or varment damage. While it is true that completely ripened tomatoes will store for a longer period of time in the refrigerator, the absolutely best tasting tomato will be ripened as just described and eaten as they ripen, being only refrigerated just hours before eating to chill the tomatoes. Tomatoes become mushy and lose favor in the refrigerator. For more information about tomato taste, see:

For more tomato recipes, see the category of Tomato Recipes at: /Recipes/recipes.html

Watermelon. Harvest when fruits are full size, have a dull surface and creamy colored ground spot. Verstuyft Farm is the home of the first seedless watermelons ever grown in this area. For more about watermelons, see:

So, don't delay, head out first thing in the morning and discover the easiest way to keep all of the fathers happy while keeping the family healthy.

Dr. Jerry Parsons is a Professor for Texas A&M University and a Texas Cooperative Extension Horticulturist for over 30 years in South Central Texas.