You’ve grown a garden full of amazing vegetables and your plants are looking evermore bountiful. It’s time to harvest, but now you’re not sure how to tell when everything is perfectly ripe and ready to pick. This is what you’ve been waiting for all season and you want to make sure you make the most of it! Don’t worry, Farmer Jo is here to help explain some of the techniques that we use at the Farm to judge when veggies are ready to harvest, and how to store the bounty for optimal freshness.
Harvesting and Storing Greens:
Greens are all of your leafy crops - lettuces, spinach, kale, and swiss chard. These are probably the most forgiving of your crops in terms of harvest window because you can harvest them as baby leaves all the way up to full size. If you’re harvesting them at full-size you want to make sure that you catch them right when they reach their max size, before they start to turn yellow or start to go to seed (otherwise known as bolting). At this point they will become tough and leathery and are just not as pleasant to eat.Some greens, like leaf lettuce, kale, and swiss chard can actually be harvested numerous times throughout the season, simply pick off the largest leaves (usually from the outside/bottom), and allow the smaller leaves to grow on.
When you are harvesting your greens make sure you do it early in the morning before the sun heats them up. Hot greens = wilted greens. Get them into a cold water bath as quickly as possible, spin them dry, and store them in a sealed plastic bag or container in the fridge. Ideal temperature is 4°C at 90% humidity.
Harvesting and Storing Root Vegetables:
Root vegetables are pretty much anything that grows underground - carrots, potatoes, turnips, radishes, and beets. These are pretty forgiving too when it comes to judging ripeness because you can harvest them as baby veg, or leave them to grow to full size. Just take a look at the size of your crop, maybe pull one sacrificial plant from the ground, and decide if it’s the size you like.
Once you harvest them, give them a wash and store them bagged in the fridge at 90% humidity.
If you’re hoping to store your root vegetables for a longer period it’s best to leave them to reach full size and then store them soil covered and wash them as required.
If you would like a little more info about storing root vegetables take a look at our blog post How to Store Root Vegetables
Harvesting and Storing Fruiting Crops:
I bet you’re thinking “I’m not growing any fruit, this section isn’t for me.” Surprise, you are! Botanically speaking, a fruit is anything that results from the pollination of a flower. This means that tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, cucumber, and beans are all considered fruit. Mind blown!To determine whether fruiting crops are ready to harvest you need to use some
highly sophisticated technological devices - your eyes, hands, and mouth! Take a look at that tomato, has it turned from green to orange, to red (assuming you’re growing red tomatoes)? Give it a little squeeze, is it firm or does it give beneath your fingers? And finally, pop it in your mouth and let your sense of taste take over.
The ideal storage temperature for fruiting crops is 12°C, so somewhere between fridge and room temperature. Tomatoes are best left on the counter, the fridge alters their texture, but the rest are happy in the refrigerator.
Now is the best part - GO EAT ‘EM!