6 Tips for Harvesting Allotment Crops
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.
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.