Whether you're a seasoned gardener or just starting to dig in the dirt, these tried-and-true tips on veggie harvesting will help you unlock the full potential of your garden’s bounty. So put on your gardening gloves, grab a basket, and let's pick out the secrets of a picture perfect summer harvest!
Go for the Gold (ilocks):
Ah, the eternal dilemma: when is the perfect moment to harvest? Just like Goldilocks searching for the right porridge, finding that sweet spot between underripe and overripe can be a challenge. In some cases, you will want to harvest a little early or a little late to achieve different flavors when enjoying your veggies later in your culinary creations.
Look for visual cues, such as the vegetable's size, color, and firmness, to gauge its readiness. Remember, experience is the best teacher, so keep experimenting and trust your instincts. Just like a perfectly timed punchline, timing is crucial in any edible harvesting situation. The key to knowing is to pay attention to your seed packets or plant informational cards that you received with the seeds or plants. These will usually tell you the best time to harvest. Instead of holding onto a bunch of informational cards, you can also keep a calendar handy or set reminders on your phone when you plant to make sure you don't miss the peak flavor and tenderness of your veggies.
Pick with Precision -
When it's time to harvest, channel your inner surgeon and pick with precision! Gently grasp the vegetable near its base and use a clean pair of pruning shears or a sharp knife for a clean cut. Avoid yanking or tearing the plant, as it can lead to unnecessary damage. Remember, a gentle touch is all it takes to savor the rewards of your hard work. Some veggies are easier to pick than others and this is also a way you can dictate the ripeness of the veggie. Usually, if it can be pulled off easily, it is ready to eat! This is especially true of softer tissue edibles such as tomatoes.
Embrace the Unique Side of Harvesting -
Unlike the grocery store perfection you may be used to, homegrown veggies can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Misshapen carrots, curvy cucumbers, and knobbly tomatoes may not win any beauty pageants, but they taste just as good as their picture-perfect counterparts. Know that these veggies are also perfectly fit for harvesting and even storing later on. Just keep an eye on ripeness as you would with any other veggie.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving -
When it comes to harvesting certain vegetables, it can become the gift keeps on giving! Take zucchini and green beans, for example. Regularly harvesting these prolific producers encourages continuous growth and therefore, more veggies. The more you pick, the more they'll reward you with a fresh bounty. So, make sure to visit your garden often and keep your basket ready for these generous givers.
After Harvest -
You’ve spent all season prepping, planting, and taking care of your fabulous veggie garden and now that you’re into the harvesting part of your journey, what comes after? The main reason we all plant veggie gardens is to, of course, enjoy the bounty and eat from them. But there are other activities to dive into before immediately throwing them into that saute pan.
- Canning - This is a great practice for anyone that likes to enjoy their harvest throughout the season. You can prep any veggie or fruit to be used later on, sometimes even a year or two into the future without having to keep it in the fridge. Great veggies to can include tomatoes turned into a homemade pasta sauce or even baked beans to use for a cookout. Some more options are okra, carrots, potatoes, and many more
- Pickling - As an extension of canning, pickling is the process of preserving food, but through a brine or vinegar, thus creating a whole new treat to enjoy later. Great veggies to pickle include cucumbers and beets.
- Sharing - If your bounty ends up being more than you expect, host a dinner party to celebrate the harvest or share your veggies by making small gift baskets for all your friends and family.
As you cultivate your green haven, cherish the moments spent in nature's embrace and savor the fruits (and veggies!) of your labor. Happy harvesting and bon appétit! To learn more about what’s growing on at the garden center, check out Mike, the Garden Guru, and his webinars with new plants, products, and expert planting advice. To keep inspired and grow with us, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok to dig into the joys of gardening!