With so much produce available it could be time to borrow a new cookbook or two from a friend and take inspiration to prepare your harvest in exciting and delicious new ways. February is probably the most productive month in terms of harvesting summer produce with climbing and dwarf beans, tomatoes, zucchini, aubergine, cucumbers, sweet corn, potatoes, delicious soft fruits like raspberries and blueberries, to name but a few, all coming to fruition at once. In most cases, the more you pick the more your plants will continue to produce. Fresh is best and produce not only ripens – almost before our eyes – but it can be over-ripe very quickly if it is missed. So keep and eye on those beans, zucchini and peas.
equipment bare hands
The cobs should start to swell quickly once they have been pollinated by the flowers at the top of the plant. They are ready to be pulled from the plant about a week or so after the silks have turned brown – the silks are fine bunches of fine strands that protrude from the top of the tightly wrapped leaves that surround each individual corn cob. Take a corn cob in one hand and support the stem of the plant with the other hand. Gently puch the cob downwards until it ‘snaps’ off the stem. Most plants will produce one good cob and then a slightly and then a slightly skinnier one below it. Sweet corn is sweetest when freshly harvested because the sugars it contains start to convert to starch once it has been picked.more
equipment Bare hands
When seedlings get to about hand high you can take your first small harvest by pinching out the tip – top inch – of aromatic foliage. This makes plants grow bushier and encourages a stronger, more rounded shape. As basil plants mature you can harvest by pinching clumps of leaves from the tips of the stems or you can remove some of the larger, fully-formed leaves lower down the plant. When flower buds appear simply pinch these out too and plants will continue to produce tasty leaves for some time.more
Each cucumber variety has its best eating size from the diminutive pickling cucumber – or gherkin – through the hand sized Lebanese to the lengthy Telegraph. Pick accordingly by cutting from vines or stems with scissors – this helps to prevent damaging the surprisingly delicate plants. Regular picking helps to ensure a prolonged and fruitful harvest. Keep picking to stimulate ripening of more cucumbers along the vines. Cucumbers are best eaten fresh-picked. If you do need to store them then do so at room temperature. Only refrigerate them for up to 3 days, after this they can start to deteriorate and suffer cold damage resulting in wateriness and pitting on the outside.more
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.
Frankly, courgettes aren't the most interesting of vegetables but the use of lots of summer herbs really helps to make this salad.