Get Ready for Harvest!
One of the most exciting parts of growing a vegetable garden is harvesting. Regular harvesting will not only bring fresh produce to your table but will actually keep the plants healthier. However, sometimes it can be tricky knowing when your freshly grown produce is ready to be picked. Sunshine, warm weather, and rain can all impact when your crops are ready to be harvested. Thankfully, your plants use a few ways to communicate that they are ready to be harvested.
SURVEY YOUR GARDEN REGULARLY
The best tool to use is your own eyes. Check your garden regularly, ideally daily, to see how your vegetables are doing. Don’t be afraid to move the leaves so that you can get a closer look at the produce. While surveying your garden, look for the following cues to help guide you on when to harvest your produce.
CHECK FOR COLOUR CHANGES
Vegetables will often change their colour when they are ready to be harvested. Tomatoes, peppers, and squash are easier to identify as they usually change from green to a bright red, orange or yellow.
Cucumbers and zucchini are a bit more challenging. These vegetables do change their colour, but it is a slight shift, usually from a lighter to a darker green, which can make it a bit harder to identify. If you’re uncertain, check to see if it’s firm to the touch and that there are no yellow or sunken areas. If that’s the case, these vegetables most likely need a bit more time.
ENJOY MULTIPLE HARVESTS OF YOUR LEAFY GREENS
Leafy greens, like lettuce, kale, and spinach are one of the earliest crops to harvest. If done carefully, these vegetables can be enjoyed for at least three to five harvests per plant. The secret is to leave the crown, the centre of the vegetable, intact.
Lettuce, spinach, and kale leaves are ready to be harvested when they are about 10 centimetres long. However, don’t remove the entire plant. Instead, simply remove the outer layer of the leaves, removing them just above the crown of the plant. For a clean cut, use scissors or sharp pruning shears.
YOUR GARLIC IS READY
Getting your garlic ready for the dinner table is a two-step process: Harvest and curing.
STEP 1: THE HARVEST
The best way to gauge when your garlic is ready to be picked is to watch the leaves. When between 30-50% of garlic leaves are brown and wilting, it is time to harvest. However, getting these cloves out of the ground can be tricky. To make this process a little easier, loosen the soil around the garlic cloves.
STEP 2: CURING
Once the cloves are removed, it’s time to cure your garlic. The curing process will remove the moisture from the garlic cloves helping to make them storage ready.
If the next few days are sunny, simply lay your garlic in rows on the ground to dry out. The leaves of the garlic can be used to cover adjacent bulbs to protect them from burning.
If rain is in the forecast, bring your cloves indoors and hang them in bundles to dry. Once dried, the bulbs can be stored in a dry, cool area.
ELEVATE YOUR PLATES WITH HERBS
If you’ve planted an herb garden this year, then you are in for a treat. Fresh herbs can be picked and enjoyed all season long.
Here are a few simple tips to keep your herb garden healthy:
- Herbs can be trimmed by scissors or pinched by hand. Whichever method you choose, make sure that your hands (or tool) are clean before plucking.
- Avoid harvesting when the sun is highest as this can be stressful for your plants. Instead, plan to harvest in either the early morning or late afternoon.
- When pruning pick the leaves from the top first.
- If you have sage or thyme in your bed, try to harvest it before it blooms because the flowers will diminish the flavour of the herbs.
- Make it a habit to pluck your herbaceous herbs (basil, dill, mint, cilantro) at least once a week. When picking, remove the top two inches of growth. This will keep your plant healthy and strong.
- Herbaceous herbs, like basil, may die after they bloom. To avoid this from happening, prune your leafy herbs regularly and cut the plant right where the leaf meets the stem.
- Avoid heavy pruning woody herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and lavender, in the fall, as the tender new shoots may struggle in the cooler temperatures.
Pesto is a delicious and easy way to use your fresh herbs, specifically basil. Use this delicious recipe to adorn your favourite pasta dish, chicken, or even fresh fish.
- 6 cups of basil leaves
- ½ cup of pine Nuts
- ¾ cup of Olive Oil
- ¾ cup of parmesan Cheese
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Salt (to taste)
- Place the pine nuts and the basil into a food processor and pulse. For a nuttier flavour, roast the pine nuts before pulsing.
- Add the garlic and parmesan cheese. Pulse until the mixture is well blended.
- Now, slowly add the olive oil. While adding the oil, continue to blend the mixture periodically. This will help prevent the mixture from separating. Continue the process until the pesto is a smooth texture.
- Add salt to taste.
- Add the pesto to your favourite dish.
Pesto has evolved to include several different flavour experiences. Why not try adding sundried tomatoes to the mixture or switching out the pine nuts for almonds for a completely different taste experience? Remember, part of the fun of cooking is putting your own flair on the dish.