Harvesting and Storing Vegetables

Picking fresh produce is always rewarding, and the taste of home-grown vegetables cannot be beaten, but it is important to harvest crops correctly to prevent damage. This way, waste is minimized and productivity continues.
From: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Vegetable Gardening

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Vegetable Gardening ©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Fresh Produce

Many crops are at their tastiest when small and tender, and eaten just minutes after picking. It is a good idea to walk around the garden every day in summer, harvesting what looks good, in order to avoid giant zucchini, stringy beans, and bolted lettuces.

Pulling Beets

Lift beets as required once they have reached about 2 inches in diameter. Simply take a firm hold of the stems and pull the root from the soil. Lift alternate roots in a row to leave more space for the others.

Cutting Asparagus

Cut tender spears 1 inch below soil level every 2–5 days over a period of 8 weeks in mid-spring. Curved, serrated asparagus knives are specially designed for this purpose.

Lifting Potatoes

Once the plants have flowered, gently pull aside the soil and turn it over with a fork, picking up potatoes as you go. Dig about 12 inches from the stem to prevent the tubers from being damaged.

Picking Corn

Test cobs for ripeness as soon as the tassels turn brown: pull back the protective leaves; when ready, sap from the cut kernels will be milky. Then hold the stem firmly and twist the cob to break it off.

Curing Pumpkins and Squashes

Leave the fruits on the plant until they are fully colored and sound a hollow note when tapped. Cut them from the plant with a sharp knife, leaving the longest stem possible, and allow the skins to harden, or cure, in the sun, a greenhouse, or a warm room for several days. Pumpkins will keep until spring in a cool, slightly humid room, where they can also be used as decoration.

Drying Beans

Beans to be stored dry should be allowed to mature on the plant and harvested before the pods split. Lay the pods on a wire rack and allow them to dry in a cool place, after which you can shell the beans. Allow the beans to dry again before putting them in jars and storing in a cool, dark place.

Drying Onions

beans Let the foliage of onions, shallots, and garlic die down naturally before lifting with a fork and laying them out to dry in the sun on a wire rack. Once the bulbs are dry, brush off any loose skins and soil, and hang them in bunches or nets in a cool, light place.

Storing Potatoes

Lift maincrop potatoes on a dry day. Allow them to dry on the ground for a few hours, then select undamaged tubers for storage. A double-layered paper sack, kept in a cool, dry place such as a garage or basement, is usually the most practical way of storing them. Potatoes must be kept in the dark to keep them from turning green, so close the sack tightly. Wooden boxes can also be used, but plastic containers are unsuitable, because they retain moisture, making tubers susceptible to rot.

Storing Roots

Most roots, except turnips and beets, can be left in the ground until required, even over winter. However, after lifting, root crops also store well in a cool, dry place. Arrange undamaged roots in a shallow wooden box so they are not touching, and cover with moist sand.

Creating a Clamp

Roots can also be stored against a wall outdoors in a "clamp," where roots are stacked on a layer of sand and covered with a layer of straw and then soil. This protects them from frost, but rodents can be a problem.

Freezing and Preserving

One of the best ways to deal with gluts of many vegetables is to freeze them. This can also be a useful way of storing summer herbs for winter. Fennel, basil and parsley all freeze well when cleaned and put in labeled bags. Chopped herbs can also be conveniently frozen with a little water in ice cube trays.

Add Flavor to Oil

Add a sprig of herbs and perhaps a chili pepper to a bottle of olive oil, to infuse it with fresh summer flavors.

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