For the freshest flavor, always prepare and serve
vegetables immediately after harvest. But let's face it, most of us
are living busy lives and lucky to get the vegetables picked and
eventually cooked. Plus, all the extras will need to be shared,
preserved or stored for future enjoyment. Here are a few things you
can do to keep the flavor fresh.
Handle produce with care. Nicking, breaking and bruising the
vegetables during harvest decreases storage life and quality.
Harvest leafy crops such as lettuce, kale, and collards last as they
quickly wilt after harvest. And with the wilting goes the ascorbic
acid (Vitamin C).
Ideally, vegetables you plan to prepare immediately should be
cleaned outdoors. You’ll keep garden soil out of the kitchen sink
and in the garden where it belongs. Collect your veggies in an open
weave wire or plastic harvest basket like the Mod Hod. Its fold out
legs allow the produce to dry before bringing it indoors. Rinse off
the soil with the hose, drain excess water and carry your veggies
into the kitchen to prepare.
Clean your counters and cutting boards before you start slicing,
cutting and dicing your vegetables. Trim stems, remove damaged
leaves and compost these in the garden or worm bin. They will have a
second life as compost in next year’s garden.
Wait to wash, trim, and clean the vegetables you plan to store or
prepare later. The scraping, cutting and slicing process increases
the loss of vitamins and flavor and reduces storage quality.
Increase storage longevity by matching vegetables with their
preferred storage conditions. The closer you come to this, the
longer your produce will last.
Store roots crops like beets, turnips and radishes as well as
cabbage and Brussels sprouts in a cold, moist condition. A spare
refrigerator works great for these. Those in colder climates can
store their carrots and parsnips right in the garden. Once the soil
gets a bit crunchy, cover them with straw or evergreen boughs for
easier digging in winter. Then dig as needed or harvest during the
first winter thaw.
[to top of second
Keep potatoes in a cool, humid and dark location like
a cool corner in the basement. Sunlight causes the exposed portions
to produce green chlorophyll and solanine, a glycoalkaloid toxin.
The solanine gives the potatoes a bitter flavor and can cause
vomiting and diarrhea if enough green potatoes are eaten. Just cut
away any green portions before using.
Store winter squash in a cool location as well. They can tolerate a
bit lower humidity and last for four months or more when properly
harvested and stored.
Use slatted crates or other vegetable storage solutions (gardeners.com)
to maximize storage space and increase storage longevity. These
systems provide ample storage space, so fruits and vegetables do not
touch. Keeping stored fruit separated prevents rot from spreading
from one fruit to the next. Plus, the slatted sides allow airflow to
extend storage longevity.
A few simple changes in handling your harvest will improve its
storage life, flavor, and nutritional quality. Better quality means
less waste and more abundance for cooking and sharing.
Follow these harvesting tips to enjoy garden-fresh meals throughout
the remainder of the growing season. Then continue creating tasty
meals reminiscent of the garden season with properly stored produce
long after your harvest is past.
[Photo courtesy of Gardener’s Supply
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books,
including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to
Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the
nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments.
Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms
magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply for her expertise
to write this article. Myers’s web site is www.melindamyers.com.