Last night I mustered enough energy to go out into the garden with a harvest basket to see what was there. I was encouraged by all of your posts with all the produce beginning to appear. I wasn’t disappointed either, my modest basket was full, and we had a lovely meal.
Sometimes it can be a little difficult to know when something is ready and with some crops if you go a little too soon or leave it a little too late then you miss that absolutely perfect window where taste and texture collide and you get to experience something that only a home gardener or a farmer gets to try – like being a part of some kind of secret club.
Some crops it is blatantly obvious if a tomato or a strawberry is red, then it is good to go. Although a strawberry with a deep red and warm from the sun is best, if you can wait that long. And a tomato picked at first blush to beat the birds will ripen nicely on the windowsill and taste just as good!
With other crops it isn’t so clear. For example, garlic or potato growing deep down underground – how can you tell?
Ideally, when you start something if work out from the seed packet or growing instructions how long it takes to get to maturity, and then pop a reminder in your calendar then it is normally within cooee depending on what kind of a season we have. I say ideally, because if you are like me it falls by the wayside of good intentions, and I never remember like I thought I would. So, failing a diarised harvest date you need to let the plants tell you.
· Garlic is ready to dig up when the bottom third of the leaves have dried up. If you can’t tell because you ended up with rust, there is no harm in gently digging down to see how they are going and if it looks like a fat bulb, dig it up and if it looks a bit lean, leave it a bit longer. They do most of their bulking up in the last week or two. Always dig garlic, don’t pull or you can damage its storage abilities. Mine should have been pulled a week ago as its protective layers have rotted away in the wet weather so the chances are they won’t store as well as they should have. Dry in the shade to cure the skins.
· For young early potatoes, the flowers are a good sign you can dig them up. But not all of them flower so it is handy to count back the days to when you planted them. There is no harm in leaving them longer as they just get bigger but going too soon can be really disappointing. Main crop potatoes are ready when all of the tops have died down. But you can, as Sue has demonstrated quite successfully, tickle a few out before the big harvest. This is also known as bandicooting.
· Onions seem to be a bit of a hot commodity right now as prices are high, and availability is low in stores. But if you grew some over the winter they should start to become ready from now. You can tell when their tops flop over that they are perfect for harvest and storage, but you can take them at any stage then if you want to. Immature onions aren’t all that different to spring onions. Dry in the sun to cure the skins.
· Zucchini are sneaky – check every day – if you need to slow down the production, then harvest the flowers – they can be stuffed and are delish – there are loads of recipes out there.
· Keep picking peas, try not to let them get too fat or they won’t taste as sweet. The more you pick the more you will get.
If you want to know about the perfect harvest for any other crop, just ask in the comments below.
Happy gardening and as always – if you want to get in touch leave a comment below.
Sarah the Gardener : o)