Harvesting and Storing Vegetables
Harvesting is one of the most satisfying jobs in the garden, the time when a gardener gets his reward for months of toil. But, like other stages of food growing, harvesting has its pitfalls. Much of the earlier effort can be wasted by failing to gather vegetables until they are past their best.
Make the most of the advantage you have over commercial growers by picking vegetables while they are young, tender and full of goodness and flavour — and only a few minutes before they are to be cooked or preserved. Check plants daily at times when crops are maturing quickly.
Pick French and runner beans before the seeds start swelling, or they will be tough and stringy and the plants will stop producing.
Pick peas when the pods are smooth and bright green. If only a few peas or beans are ready, keep picking frequently and put the pods in the refrigerator until you have sufficient to make a meal.
Pick perpetual spinach and sea kale beet regularly to discourage them from going to seed.
Many summer- grown vegetables can be preserved by freezing, bottling, or salting. Others, such as marrows, onions, potatoes and root vegetables can be stored for winter use in an airy, frost-free place such as a garage or shed.
Ensure that doors and windows fit well and, in a severe winter, give additional protection with sacking, straw or layers of newspaper.
Do not put sacks or containers directly on the floor and do not lean them against walls.
Store only undamaged and healthy vegetables, and inspect them regularly.
In the past it was often recommended that potatoes and root vegetables should be stored in an earth clamp outdoors, but few gardeners today grow enough to make this worthwhile.
Clamps are in any case an inconvenient method of storage as they may have to be opened in wet weather.
Instead, keep long-rooted beetroot, carrots and celeriac in boxes of damp sand or peat to prevent them shrivelling. Before storing, twist off the leaves of beetroot by hand and trim the foliage of carrots and celeriac with a knife.
Leave potatoes to dry on the ground before storing them in large, unsealed paper bags or hessian sacks. Potatoes in store need air but not light so it is inadvisable to store them in polythene bags.
Place the sacks on upturned boxes to keep them off the ground.
Either hang onions, shallots and garlic in nets, or tie them to lengths of rope. Store marrows and pumpkins in nets hanging from a beam or the shed roof. Leave parsnips, swedes and leeks in the soil until they are needed, as they will withstand frost.