Gardening

Everything you need to know about harvesting and storing homegrown veggies

By: Mark Cullen
How to harvest and store homegrown veggies

Getty Images Author: Mark Cullen

Gardening

Everything you need to know about harvesting and storing homegrown veggies

By: Mark Cullen

Whether it's the desire to reduce the chemicals in our diet or save money, or as an excuse to get outside, more than one-third of Canadians grow food at home. But not all home gardeners are experts; some of us don't know what happens, exactly, after our seeds have been planted. How do you know when your veggies are ready to eat and what's the best way to get them onto your plate? In an excerpt from his book The New Canadian Garden, Mark Cullen shares his simple guide to harvesting and storing your homegrown veggies.

Beans (bush)
How long until harvest: What the package says 54 days
What to look for harvest: When the beans are about the size of a pencil. Beans that are allowed to grow too large will become chalky and lose their flavour.
How to store: Wash only once you are ready to use them. Brush off dirt and put in the crisper. Rinse in cold water and only cut right before use.

Beets
How long until harvest: What the package says 50–70 days
What to look for: Harvest before the plant flowers to retain maximum flavour. The package should  say how large that variety will grow. Dust off the soil to expose the top of the beet and estimate its diameter. Pull when it has reached the right size.
How to store: Store in refrigerator with greens left intact if planning to use within two weeks. Can be stored in dry sand in a cool (1°–4°C), dry place if planning to store for longer. Only uninjured beets should be stored this way.

Broccoli
How long until harvest: What the package says 45 days
What to look for: Cut off the main head before it flowers. Side shoots will likely grow; cut them off when they are a size you can use.
How to store: Can be stored two to three days in the crisper after heads have been misted and wrapped in damp paper towels.

Kale
How long until harvest: What the package says 55 days
What to look for: Ready when leaves are about 20 centimetres long. Pick continuously throughout the season. Harvest from the outside and avoid breaking off the centre leaves.
How to store: Kale tastes best fresh from the garden. For short-term storage, wash leaves, de-stem if you wish, dry, and place on a paper towel. Wrap up the lot and store in the crisper for seven to 10 days. 

Lettuce (Leaf)
How Long until harvest: What the package says 40 days
What to look for: Harvest leaves the day you want them. Can be stored for a few days in the fridge. Do not allow to flower, and pick leaves from the bottom up (or inside out depending on the variety), keeping some to continue photosynthesis.
How to store: Wash leaves thoroughly with cold water. Use a spinner or paper towel to dry leaves. Put dry leaves into a sealable bag and push out excess air before sealing. Stores well for up to eight days.

Radish
How long until harvest: What the Package Says 21–45 days
What to look for: Do not allow to flower. Harvest when top of radish has reached size specified on package. Radishes are very fast-growing vegetables, some only taking three weeks. Sow a few seeds every week for a continuous harvest.
How to store: Remove leaves and stems and wash well. Rinse in cold water; do not leave out to dry. Line a sealable bag with a paper towel and drop in the wet radishes. Add more paper towel if you have more than a few radishes. Refrigerates well for at least a week.

Spinach
How long until harvest: What the package says 45 days
What to look for: Pick leaves from main stem as plant grows and you want spinach. Immature leaves tend to be less bitter. Do not allow to flower.
How to store: Pick and eat right away. Spinach can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Do not wash after picking; dry leaves with paper towel and store in an air-tight plastic bag lined with a paper towel. 
For freezing: blanch, chill in ice water, drain, and package for freezing.

Tomato
How long until harvest: What the package says; Cherry: 70 days; Moneymaker: 75 days; Plum: 75 days; Roma: 75 days
What to look for: Harvest when tomato is red (or has a firm but not hard texture). Some tomatoes will never turn red (they are yellow, brown, purple, or green when ripe, so it's always good to know your variety). If tomato is almost ripe and a large amount of rain is forecasted, pick the tomato to avoid it splitting from the excess water. Place not-quite-ripe tomatoes in a warm, sunny window and they will ripen.
How to store: Do not refrigerate freshly picked tomatoes. Pick and use within three days. If you have picked unripe tomatoes, let sit on windowsill. Remove dirt with a damp cloth but dry well before letting them sit on the counter.

Excerpted from The New Canadian Garden by Mark Cullen. © 2016, Mark Cullen. All rights reserved. Published by Dundurn Press.

 

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Mark Cullen believes in giving back! All of the author royalties from the sale of this book will go to the planting of trees along Canada's Highway of Heroes.

Read more:
Enjoy a longer veggie-growing season with raised bed gardens
Tips for growing a vegetable garden
Planting success: 5 tips to help your herbs thrive

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Gardening

Everything you need to know about harvesting and storing homegrown veggies

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