Saturday, October 17, 2009

Six Tips for Harvesting

As my husband and I were picking some dinner last weekend, it occurred to me there are a few basic guidelines I follow to decide what to harvest.

Of course, when it comes to things like tomatoes or peppers it is a simple enough thing to know when they are ripe and ready to eat. So this is more for the trickier plants like herbs, lettuce, chard, or mustard greens that continue to grow through multiple harvests.

I never really thought of it clearly before we were talking and picking together, so I think it is helpful even for myself to have them spelled out. That's why I'm now going to record them here, so we can best turn the above mustard green plants into this all season:
  1. This one is pretty obvious, but trim in such a way as to optimize the plants growth. For example, never trim too much so it dies back, and try to get the older leaves but leave the smaller ones so they'll soon be big enough to eat.
  2. Look for bigger, older leaves that still look good - if they haven't been munched on by a caterpillar yet, they will be any second so time to pick.
  3. Cut parts that are growing too close to other plants and taking them over. (I'm looking at you, oregano and shiso!)
  4. Trim parts that are growing onto the path or the edges of the beds, because they'll end up trampled and bruised soon enough.
  5. Harvest any that are just starting to touch the dirt. Once they start laying on top of it, especially if it rains, they'll end up muddy and rotted anyway. So cut them before that happens.
  6. Try to trim them in an aesthetic fashion. Since these plants will keep growing and the garden is small, it's nice to keep an eye for beauty when harvesting. Like, don't cut off all the leaves just from the front, or one side. Try to keep the plant looking natural.

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