Harvesting and Storing Home Grown Vegetables
Harvesting and Storage
Believe it or not,is actually really quite easy. It’s just that there’s rather a lot to think about before you get on with the actual growing.
What a shame it would be if, after all the thought and work, the finished product was spoiled, or even wasted, through a lack of knowledge as to the best way to harvest and store it. Fortunately, it won’t take long to ensure against that but the points that we will be looking at are all important and are worth following if you are to get the best from your vegetable patch.
A common fault, especially amongst newcomers to gardening or with established gardeners who have got into bad habits, is to leave vegetables until they are well past their best. This is the result of a natural tendency to leave them until they’re ‘nice and big’. This is perfectly alright with a few vegetables, such as maincrop, but it’s a mistake with the majority.
What happens when most vegetables get large is that they get ‘nasty and big’, and coarse. Their flavour gets rank and strong and, in some cases, they can even be unpleasant to eat. Carrots,and most other root vegetables become woody and fibrous and are then better suited to carpentry than to cookery.
When, and get old, they lose their delicious, juicy flavour and get hard and mealy. French and runner beans become stringy and develop internal husks. The flavour of lettuces and most greens becomes strong and, very often, the plants bolt and cannot be eaten at all. A complete waste. Marrows and get dry, fibrous and chewy.
Onions andare the ‘odd men out’ in that, once they reach their full size, they stop growing, the foliage dies off and the bulb becomes dormant.
Therefore, with very few exceptions, always gather vegetables when they are still young and tender. You won’t be losing anything, whereas you’ll most certainly be losing quality if they’re left purely for the sake of gaining a bit more in bulk. If they are left after they are at their best, they can only deteriorate.
By the same token, picking pre-ripe vegetables is equally wasteful. Allow things to reach their optimum size before gathering them. Another important point is that many vegetables must be picked over regularly if they are to yield their maximum crop. Peas, all beans, Brussels sprouts, sprouting, tomatoes, and cucumbers are the main ones in this group. If you can’t keep up with eating them, they’ll still have to be picked but should then be either frozen, if appropriate, or given to friends.
Excess vegetables and allowing them to spoil with age is a particularly thorny problem when holidays are due. On no account should you go away for more than about a week without making arrangements for vegetables to be gathered when they are ready. All will be wasted and some will stop cropping.
Before you finish though, make sure that you have picked everything that needs to be; pick harder than you would normally – there’s no point in giving away more than you have to!
Storing Home Grown Vegetables
This is one of the most valuable subjects about which to have a working knowledge. Not only does successful storage prevent the waste of vegetables which all mature within a short time, it also means that you seldom have to be without at least some sort of vegetable.
If we exclude possibly the best method of storage, freezing, there really aren’t many vegetables that can be kept for any length of time. The Dutch white cabbages can be hung up in a shed, but personally I prefer to grow other varieties to give a succession of fresh cut cabbages rather than have a whole block of the Dutch for storing.
Besides this, root crops including potatoes, andand shallots are the only ones which store reliably. Potatoes are the easiest. Any remaining in the ground in mid-October should be lifted, dried off and stored in bags in a dry and frost-free shed or garage. If there isn’t room for this, they can be what is called ‘clamped’ in the open.
You don’t see much clamping nowadays, but it is an excellent way to store potatoes. A good layer of straw is laid on the ground, the potatoes are piled high on this and are then covered with more straw so that you end up with something looking like a small haystack. Soil is then put on the straw to hold it down and provide yet more insulation. This is beaten down with the back of a spade and all is cosy for the winter. When removing a few potatoes from the clamp to use, be sure to seal up the hole afterwards.
Carrots, turnips, swedes,and can also be clamped but I prefer to leave parsnips in the ground until they’re needed. You do run the risk of them being frozen into the earth during really hard spells but this can be overcome by putting straw over the rows in December and some sticks on top to stop it blowing, away.
All those root crops can also be stored dry in bags as for potatoes.
Marrows can also be hung up alongside the Dutch white cabbages but, here again, I prefer to eat them fresh and turn any surplus intoand ginger jam.
Onions and shallots must always be well dried and ripened, if necessary in a greenhouse, and then stored in net bags or in strings. Strings are very picturesque and are quite easy to tie, but are a slight waste of time because onions should always be stored as cold as possible, frost-free, and not in a warm kitchen where they’ll dry out.
And you can always store your tomatoes in the freezer – believe it or not you can freeze them whole – as shown in this video: