Growing your own fruit, herbs and vegetables ensures that they’ll be at their very best when it comes to eating them moments after they have been picked or dug up. Flavour, texture and nutritional value are all at their peak when produce is fresh-picked or harvested. Generally it works out that you can leave your food plants growing until you need to take produce from them – this guarantees that all-important freshness. There are many vegetables – like carrots, beetroot, leeks and parsnips that store well in the ground. Others such as pumpkins and potatoes can be stored for months indoors with the right handling. Apples, garlic and onions too have a good ‘shelf life’.  Some harvests are a more of a glut and a time for feasting – grapes, avocados, feijoas and asparagus are all delicious fresh. However, with the right recipes even these fresh treats can be transformed into a resourceful long- term food store by freezing, preserving and pickling. The most important thing of all is knowing when plants and produce are ready and how best to harvest them.


How to Harvest

Garlic

equipment small fork and bare hands

The first signs of garlic being ready are yellowing foliage and stems starting to flop a bit. Test your crop by gently pushing a fork under a plant and lifting the garlic beneath, the bulb should be swollen and tight-skinned. If al is well then dig the whole crop up. Use some of the fresh garlic straight away and spread your surplus on the soil (if weather is dry) or hang it up somewhere dry – probably not the airing cupboard, unless you are keen on onion-scented underwear – and more preferably the greenhouse, garage or garden shed where air can circulate. After a couple of weeks you can trim off the wilted and dried leaves and then plait them if they have soft central stems or cut stiff stems down to within an inch of the top of each bunch of cloves and store in a cool dry place until needed.

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How to Harvest

Tomatoes

equipment Bare hands

When plants have around 5 or 6 bunches of ripening fruit on them pinch out the growing tip (basically the top inch or so from the tallest part of the plant). This will focus the plant’s attention on ripening fruits. Fruit are ripe when they are still firm but give slightly, colour should also deepen and intensify to a rich red, dark purple, orange or yellow – depending on variety. Fruit ripen from the plant outwards. Twist the ripe fruit so that they come away from the stems easily without tearing or dislodging other ripening fruit. At the close of the season, when foliage starts to curl and shrink, if there are still fruit on the plants then they can be cut at the base and hung upside down under cover to ensure all remaining fruit finish ripening.

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How to Harvest

Climbing Beans

equipment Bare hands

To keep your crop coming you must pick beans as they become ready. You can eat them when they get to finger length when pods are sweet and succulent and beans are young and small or wait until they stretch to the length of your hand from palm to finger tip. If you leave your beans on the plant for too long they may become stringy which means its chutney making time.

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SEASONAL RECIPES

Raw Tomato Sauce For Pasta

This is simplicity itself and relies on perfect ingredients. Bought pasta can vary a lot in quality, so at the very least always make sure that it is Italian; one of our favourite brands is de Cecco. Without the pasta, this is a useful little salad in its own right.

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SEASONAL RECIPES

Herbed Courgette Salad with Feta

Frankly, courgettes aren't the most interesting of vegetables but the use of lots of summer herbs really helps to make this salad.

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Vegetables ready around now

Fruit ripe for the plucking