Real Men Sow

6 Tips for Harvesting Allotment Crops

harvest

We’re entering peak harvesting period! I hope your allotments and veg patches are bursting with fresh fruit and veg.

This is a truly wonderful time of year, when all our hard work comes together and we make hay while the sun shines. Given all this effort, you’d think I’d take care over my harvesting, but it’s easy to lapse and not give this important job the attention it deserves.

I’m not sure why I’ve made this mistake in the past, but sometimes the harvest is the forgotten part of veg growing. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up to help get harvesting right.

Use Tools
I can be a lazy so and so, and will regularly try and pull carrots by hands, forcing the root until it breaks in two. An obvious thing, but it took me a long time to give in and grab a trowel.

I’ve done this with parsnips and leeks too. A fork will help prevent snapped veg.

Use a pair of scissors when harvesting lettuce leaves, and secateurs for vine crops like cucumbers.

Best Time to Harvest
The best time to harvest is in the morning, before the temperature rises too much. Veg picked during this time won’t have evaporated moisture in the heat, so they don’t limp or wilt as quickly.

I’ve noticed this is particularly relevant for leafy greens and salad, as well as rootier crops like carrots and radish. One tip I worked out is to keep radishes and carrots into a glass of cold water. This keeps the root firm for much longer.

Deal With Your Harvest Quickly
If you can’t get down and harvest early, it isn’t the end of the world. I enjoy harvesting at the end of a good session on the plot, but try to avoid the temptation to leave your harvest on the kitchen top and relax with a cup of tea or kick back in a hot bath. As inviting as this is, deal with your harvest before you do anything else.

I’ve left crops out before and they rapidly lose their freshness. Get them out of the sun and into the fridge quickly, even if this means not cleaning the dirt off first.

Have a Harvesting Tactic
Some easy to deal with crops, like beans and winter greens, can just be picked and sorted out easily but others need a little planning. Onions and garlic must be dry before storage, so make sure you harvest when the weather is good. The crops can be laid out in the sun for a couple of days.

A big squash harvest is very heavy, so have somewhere ready to store them, or your car available to take them home.

Set Some Time Aside
I am always surprised at how quickly time passes when I get stuck in to a harvest. I can easily use up an hour when picking crops. Harvesting is incredibly satisfying and worth spending some time over, so don’t rush.

Learn the Veg
However, all this said, I reckon the best harvesting tip is to learn your veg. For example, it is important to know what veg is better when young and tender, and what should be left on the plant to ripen in the sun.

This sort of knowledge will help guarantee you get to sample your homegrown produce at its very best. Over the weekend I’m going to post some more tips which are specific to different crops, so if you’re new to growing veg, check back on Saturday and hopefully the post will help you pick just at the right time. :)

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5 Comments

  1. CJAugust 15, 2013 at 8:49 pmReply

    A really interesting post. Sometimes there’s so much weeding to do I hardly have any time to harvest! But you are right, it is worth taking a bit of time over. After all, it’s what it’s all about!

  2. NotjustgreenfingersAugust 18, 2013 at 8:34 pmReply

    Good post. Time and time again at my allotment site I see people work hard growing their veg and not harvesting it. I don’t understand it, I love the harvest, it’s the reward for all the hard work I have done throughout the year.

  3. gregAugust 19, 2013 at 9:54 pmReply

    this is an excellent blog idea. You are right that harvesting is a neglected art, but the worst neglect is when people don’t harvest at all. I see lots of really good fruit & veg grown on my allotment site (often much better than my efforts) just left to rot.
    I know its not always easy to get some one to pick for you in holiday time, perhaps there should be Please Pick Me’ signs put up when growers are away.

  4. Jono

    JonoAugust 20, 2013 at 5:23 amReplyAuthor

    Thanks all. The worst I’ve seen was a plot full of nothing but soft fruit. It was only half a plot, but no one picked any of the fruit for weeks. There was rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries. Sad really.

  5. Jono

    JonoAugust 20, 2013 at 5:23 amReplyAuthor

    P.S. Greg – love the ‘Pick Me’ holiday signs. What a great idea. :)

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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