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Summer is a wonderful time for fresh fruit and veg. Get the most of your garden’s early bounty by learning how to harvest the best way possible. Many of these are best eaten shortly after they are harvested, and many have short storage times so are best either frozen or pickled for long term storage.
Cucumbers are best eaten when they are immature, before the seeds harden. Look for uniform and firm cucumbers. To harvest, cut stems above fruit with a sharp knife. Pulling cucumbers from the vines may damage the plant.
Storage: Do not rinse cucumbers that you are not eating right away: wrap them tightly in plastic bags and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
If you are cutting the entire head of lettuce, cut or pull the entire plant up from the ground. If you are pulling leaves, gently cut or twist off individual leaves, taking care not to damage the stem. Leaving the center leaves un-touched will allow the plant to continue to grow.
Storage: Only pick as much lettuce as you can eat within 2 to 3 days. Wrap heads of lettuce tightly in a plastic bag. If you harvested individual leaves, layer between paper towels, then place in a plastic bag. Store all lettuce, unwashed, in the refrigerator. Wash just before you use it, or leaves will wilt in the refrigerator.
Peas grow quickly, so check often once the flowers have bloomed. Harvesting peas often can encourage the plant to keep growing pods. To harvest pea pods, hold the vine with one hand and pull the pod off with the other, pulling pods with one hand can damage the plant and cause it to stop pod growth. Pods are over mature when they appear dull in colour and have hardened.
Storage: Peas are best if used the same day they are picked. If this isn’t possible, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. For longer storage, peas may be frozen.
Harvest radishes as soon as they are large enough to eat by pulling root from the dirt. Radishes left too long can become woody and bitter.
Storage: Wash, dry and store inside a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Ripe raspberries should be uniform in colour and can be pulled off canes easily. If a berry has only some parts coming off easily, leave it for another day or two to ripen.
Storage: Use fresh raspberries soon after picking. Place unwashed raspberries in a single layer in the refrigerator until you are ready to use; layering raspberries can cause the berries to be crushed. For long-term storage, raspberries can be frozen or preserved.
Like lettuce, spinach can either be harvested by collecting individual leaves from the base or by harvesting the entire plant. Spinach can become bitter as it matures, so it is best collected when the leaves are about 3 to 4 inches long.
Storage: Wrap spinach in paper towels and place into a plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator. Wash spinach just before you use it. Spinach may also be frozen.
There are a wide variety of sour cherries available, each with their own flavours and ways to use. All of them can be harvested the same way by cutting the stems. Pulling the fruit directly from the tree without the stem bruises the fruit and reduces your storage time.
Storage: Store in the fridge but use as soon as possible after picking. For longer storage, cherries can be frozen or preserved.
Swiss chard is a member of the beet family, so the leaves and the stems are edible. To harvest, cut stems 1 ½ inches above the base of the stems. Tender leaves can be added to salad; stems can be cooked like asparagus.
Storage: Wrap Swiss chard in paper towels and place into a plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator. Wash just before you use it. Swiss chard may also be frozen.
Ripe tomatoes can be harvested by breaking the stem just above the fruit.
Storage: For best quality, store tomatoes at room temperature. For long term storage, tomatoes can be frozen or preserved in jars.
Have more of something than you can eat? Why not freeze or preserve it? Learn how to freeze or can your extra fruit and vegetables so you can enjoy your harvest all year round!