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Your fruitful vegetable patch will inspire you to cook the most delicious organic recipes, and eat the freshest food available - right from your backyard!
Information follows on
- When and how to harvest
- How to store produce
- Edible and Medicinal Weeds: common household weeds and their forgotten uses.
When and how to harvest
There are a few key things to remember when harvesting to ensure that you get the most out of your crop.
- The best time to harvest most vegetables is in the morning
after the dew has evaporated.
- Some vegetables like lettuce, spinach, parsley, beetroot leaves
and Asian greens can be continually harvested by taking picking
the oldest, outer most leaves.
- When harvesting greens such as those above, use a sharp knife
or scissors and try to cut the leaf off cleanly and as close to its
base as possible.
- Other plants are harvested only once like onions, leeks, carrots,
beetroots and turnips.
- To check if a turnip, beetroot or carrot is ready for harvesting,
scrape a little of the soil aside from the top until you can see
the top of the tuber. If its circumference is a suitable size and is
starting to push itself up out of the soil, it is ready to be harvested. If you grab hold of all of the leaves as close to the tuber as possible and give it a gentle tug, the whole plant should come up with little resistance. You can snap off the leaves and leave them where the tuber has been pulled up from as mulch, or alternatively put it in the compost. Wash the tuber before eating.
- Leeks can be harvested when they’re small (2cm thick) or left until they are larger. They can be harvested by just pulling the whole plant out of the ground. All of the plant can be eaten but the very tips of the Leek can be a little tough.
Sometimes there is an over abundance of produce in the garden.
There are for example only so many zucchinis one family can eat in a week. There are some neat ways to store some of your harvest to ensure that you can enjoy them well through winter and into spring.
These can beleft on the vine until the vine has withered, turned brown and the stem attaching the pumpkin to the vine is hard and dry. Snap it off leaving about 5cm of stalk and store in a dry, airy place. Any breaks in the pumpkin skin can potentially let pests and rot in but these can be sealed using melted bees wax. The most important thing is to try and keep the stem in tact as this is the main place pests and rot will get in and also to leave the pumpkin on the vine as long as possible.
Zucchinis need to be treated with care as they damage easily. They can grow very large but are best when they're about 15- 20cm long. Harvest from the vine using a sharp knife and leaving a few centimetres of stalk. Theyu can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for four to five days. Don't wash until just before you are ready to use it. They can also be frozen by slicing them into rounds, blanching for two minutes in boiling water and dip into cold water. Drain water off, and seal in airtight containers or bags. Frozen zucchini can be kept for ten to twelve months. Zuchinis can also be cooked up into many delicous dishes. See pips recipes for more.
Tomatoes are to be harvested when they are dark red and soft to touch. They should just about fall of the bush into your hand. If the birds are getting your tomatos you can pick them when they are still green and leave them in a paper bag for a few days to ripen. Ripe tomatos keep their flavour best if they are stored at 10-15 Degrees C (not in the fridge). This way they will last up to 5 days. If the tomato is cut however it is best kept in the fridge. Tomatoes can also be frozen, bottled or cooked up into delicous pasta sauces and other delights. See pips recipes for more.
Eggplants go off fast, so its best to pick them just before you want to use them or else keep them in the fridge for no more than a week or so. Eggplant cant be stored in the freezer unless it has been cooked first. Eggplants are used in a lot of middle eastern recipes. Because they are bitter, they are usually sliced and soaked in salty water to draw out the bitterness before cooking.
Like eggplants and tomatoes, corn is best and sweetest when picked and eaten straight away, but if you do have more to harvest than you can eat in one meal they can be husked, scalded in boiling water for 4 minutes, drained, chopped into thirds and stored in the freezer in plastic bags. To dry the kernels, treat them the same as if you're freezing them but cut the kernels off the cob. Spread them on a tray for drying. This can be done in an oven on a low heat (45 degrees C) for 12-18 hours, or in a food dehydrator. The sun is another great way to dry the kernels. Spread them out on paper or mesh and leave in a sunny place, bringing them in at night to stop them getting moisture on them. They are ready when the kernels are dry, hard and shrivelled. Store in an airtight container and to cook them; cover in water and simmer until soft and tender (about 1 hour).
Basil doesn't grow all year round but there are some good ways to preserve it so you can continue to enjoy it all year. Fresh leaves can be frozen in a snap lock bag. Leaves can be frozen into ice cubes, or alternatively blended in a food processor with oil and frozen in ice cube trays for easy use. Pesto is another great way to store basil. See pips recipes for more.
Apples can be stored for 3-4months or more if treated properly. The main causes of apples going off is bruises, contact with a rotten spot on another apple and time. Thick skinned apples usually keep longer than thin skinned. Apples can be wrapped individually in newspaper (to prevent skin to skin contact with other apples) and stored in a box in a dark cool place, ideally a root cellar. Only the best apples with no bruises should be kept for long term storage as bruised ones will go rotten and spoil the rest. Alternatively apples are great in chutneys, sauce, cider, vinegar and puree.
The most nutritious way to store figs is by drying them. Put whole or halved figs on a tray in the oven on very low until shrivelled and dry but still soft (may take upto 24 hours) this is best done if you have enough trays full of figs to fill the oven to maximise the use of gas/electricity. Alternatively sun drying on mesh trays works just as well or using specialised food dehydrators. Figs can also be cooked and made into jams or served fresh in fruit salad or with cheese and biscuits.
Pip also has many delicious recipe ideas for your autumn harvest.
Section coming soon.