I'm asking mainly because of https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/69381/what-is-the-ideal-age-for-cooking-with-hostas

I've read that hostas can be fibrous, and stringy when they get to old, so what is the ideal age for hostas when you cook with them?

The OP did also add:

i'm asking about when they start being stringy, and fibrous, not specifically picking them

but still, it's about when a plant reaches a certain point that's desirable for harvesting, so nonetheless it seems to boil down to when to pick them.

Should we take questions like this, or migrate them to gardening? (When to harvest a crop is on-topic there.)

A couple older examples, too old to migrate but perhaps helpful to think about what we'd do if they were asked today:

3 Answers 3


I say it's a case-by-case basis: the overall category can be on topic on both sites, but some such questions belong much more on one site than the other.

For the specific questions under consideration here:

  • Hostas - I think this is way better on gardening. It's not a common cooking ingredient, it's not sold in stores (except maybe some places in Asia?), so gardeners are way more likely to have good advice. I would probably like to migrate it, but I don't feel strongly enough to do so unilaterally.

  • Elderberries - would've been better on gardening, but it did okay here. It got an okay answer: pretty clear, except how do you actually judge full ripeness? Note that the answer mentions branches drooping under weight as a sign; that's something that's only applicable to picking from a plant, not selecting in a store, so it is actually a little gardening-specific.

  • Blueberries - again better on gardening, did okay here. It got what seems to be a good answer here. But again, it mentions sun exposure, which is gardening-specific.

  • Figs - significantly better on gardening. The answer relies substantially on fruit drooping on the tree, though it does also mention things that work in stores. (You have a lot more freedom to squeeze and taste if it's on your tree, though.)

Note that you don't actually find out if there is gardening-specific advice to be had until you see the answers.

So to try to generalize a tad...

For some things, you might not want to decide when to pick from your garden in the same way you'd select produce in a store. For example, berries are probably best picked completely ripe, and you can easily taste-test to get an idea. In a store, completely ripe berries probably won't survive transit well, so you have to balance ripeness with smooshedness. Or consider herbs: they're be fine to cook with at basically any time, so the best time to pick is basically a gardening question. (When and how much can you pick while keeping the plant healthy.)

On the other hand, for many things you'll pretty much be looking for the same thing whether you're in a store or in a garden. Even in these cases the OP might be best served by asking on gardening, even if the question would do okay here. Even if deciding the optimal time to harvest uses the same criteria you'd use in the store, there might well be other related things a gardener would know best about, e.g. how reasonable it is to harvest before or after the optimal time.

So on the whole, as an OP, I'd tend to go for gardening. If you're asking the question, you don't know which of those categories it's in. But you can be confident people on gardening will have good advice, while you don't know whether cooks' knowledge will be complete enough to give you a good answer. It's definitely where I'd personally ask most questions like this.

As for what we should do, this means we have to consider questions individually:

  • For some, it'll basically be a cooking question, so we don't need to do anything.
  • For some, it'll be in a gray area, so we should leave it where asked... but remind the OP that gardening exists and might get them better answers. (And we can certainly migrate if the OP wants.)
  • For some, where we're confident it's mostly a gardening issue, we might want to just migrate.

Since I do think that gardening is the best place to ask, as we evaluate questions, I'm okay with erring on the side of migrating.


I'm not very active here so feel free to ignore me, but I thought I'd add my perspective of how I treat similar questions on other sites. (I partially discussed this with Jefromi already.)

My rule of thumb for dealing with this sort of grey area is: Would it be acceptable if asked from a different perspective? Could it be closed as a duplicate of an acceptable question? If the answer is yes, then the question should stay. (It might still need editing to make that direct relationship to our scope more obvious.)

Since the question doesn't involve things like preservation during transportation, and so on, I think the core question is one that is at least very relevant here. A consumer/cook in the grocery store might also be selecting food based on its age when it was picked. The gardener and the cook have the same goals and need the same information; it's the same question, just approached different ways.

As such, I think this question is effectively the same as this contrived one:

What is the ideal age for cooking with Vegetable X?

I've read that Vegetable X gets bitter if it's too old. My grocery store sells local Ontario ones as well as imported California ones. The former are younger thanks to our growing season starting later, and are also more expensive. I'd like to purchase the cheaper ones until the point in the season where they start tasting bad and then switch to the others, but I'd rather know ahead of time rather than needing to experiment.

I find this very similar to other questions we have, like about age with regards to food safety or about selecting other ingredients. For that reason, I would say that it should be on-topic. It's not an excellent question, but it's definitely acceptable (IMO).

  • I agree in general about gray areas, but I think in trying to approach this with hypotheticals and generalizations like this, you might've glossed over some practical details: not all questions are so solidly in the gray area, and even if the question is theoretically on topic on both sites, it might get far better answers on one site than the other, so we might want to consider adjusting our notion of "on topic" so as to help get people good answers.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 4, 2016 at 17:34
  • @Jefromi I don't disagree with that, but to my knowledge SE's stance has always been that site scopes should be independent, and overlap is OK. It's up to the asker to determine where to ask to get the best answer if there are multiple relevant sites, not to others. Jun 4, 2016 at 18:50
  • It's also about targeting expertise -- a farmer/gardener might say "We always pick them after X months before selling/shipping them" and a cook might say "I've found they actually taste best when picked earlier than normal". The asker most interested in cooking concerns is more likely to target us than them. Proposing a migration to the OP is great, but I am personally averse to forming a rule about it. Jun 4, 2016 at 18:53
  • That's the thing: the relevance of cooking gets pretty tangential on some of these. Asking when to pick herbs, for example: as far as cooking goes, they're basically always fine. But if you pick them too early or in the wrong way, you're harming the plant. So "when do I pick my basil" is basically purely a gardening question, and it'd be good to the OP if we helped them to the right place, rather than leaving the burden on them. Like I said, I agree that there is a gray area, but I don't agree that all "when should I pick X" questions are in that gray area.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 5, 2016 at 1:36

I'm going to say it's a similar question, but probably all depends on the language:

  • "When should I harvest X" is clearly a gardening question.
  • "When is the best time to get fresh X" is definitely a question for here.

The two are usually the same answer...

  • Are we talking about the same thing? "best time to get fresh X" suggests a seasonal thing, on the scale of what time of year you should plant something and roughly how many weeks it'll take to get to harvest, not narrowing it down to how to actually tell when it's ready to harvest.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 12, 2016 at 22:03
  • The more analogous thing would be "how do I pick out a good X at the store?" - but as I mentioned in my answer I don't think those are always the same answer either, and that potential distinction is why I think one site might often be much better than the other for a given question, including some of the real examples given here.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 13, 2016 at 0:21
  • I'm thinking more of "when is the best time to get fresh/local/good X" - i.e. buying local asparagus in the spring (which unsurprisingly happens to coordinate with its natural harvest time), as opposed to getting imported woody stuff other times of year. It's not quite "how do I pick out a good X", which is a whole other subject, I think. Jun 24, 2016 at 15:06
  • Yeah, I gathered, and I'd agree in that case. But the examples here are definitely about deciding when something already planted is best ready to pick, i.e. a day, not just the season.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Jun 24, 2016 at 15:35

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