What’s more exciting than the promises of longer, warmer hours in the garden? Getting to finally harvest your winter’s work from your home vegetable garden! All your toiling can finally be picked and savoured — perhaps served in a fresh spring salad or stored for those occasional stormy spring stews. To make the most of your hard labour, we have provided the best tips and storage solutions for harvesting your winter veggies.
Assessing your home vegetable garden
A great spring harvest comes right after your cool season crop develops. These veggies thrive best when they have a chance to mature during cool weather — and believe it or not — they will go to seed otherwise. One important tip to keep in mind? These veggies store better when they are picked at peak maturity. Be sure to get your timing right, and handle with care. Anything handled roughly, showing scuffs, nicks or bruises, is best consumed first, as it will deteriorate quicker.
If you are new to creating a home vegetable garden, we have some resources to help guide you through the process, from planting to picking. For future planning, we shared our pick for the top three winter vegetables. Additionally, if you want more information on how to make the most of your October garden, we have some great advice for your flowers, and what else to start sowing now.
From backyard crop to tabletop
It’s time to focus on picking your matured cool season veggies. These include onions (green, spring, leeks and even garlic), brassicas (turnip, cabbage, kale, swiss chard and mustard greens) and other favourites like carrots, peas and broad beans.
Harvesting and storage tips
Making sure you pick at the ripe (and right) moment. To ensure longevity for your veggies, be sure to use the correct storage method:
Root vegetables (carrots and turnips)
Try to leave your root vegetables in the ground as long as possible. When you are ready to dig them up, carefully trim the tops and avoid cutting the beginnings of the root. Keep in the crisper drawer in your fridge, tightly sealed in a bag or container to avoid getting them exposed to air. It’s always best to eat root vegetables as fresh as possible, but they are considered as long term storage veggies.
Roots like amadumbe can be uprooted when the leaves turn yellow and then stored in a cool dry aerated space. Amadumbe needs to be consumed and cooked as soon as possible (they are toxic when consumed raw), whereas the leaves can store for several days in a perforated bag in the fridge. Carrots and parsnips, however, can last three to four weeks.
Once you have uprooted your onions and garlic bulbs, it’s best to air them out in a warm, dry spot away from direct sunlight. After a few weeks, you can trim the roots and tops before storing in a dark and well aerated area. The best place would be away from the fridge, preferably a root cellar or an airy cupboard.
Storage times include seven to ten days for green onions and up to one to two months for onions. A peeled bulb of garlic can last three weeks and an unpeeled head of garlic can last six months.
Brassicas (leafy greens, from roots to buds)
The best practices for storing these lush greens involve washing and some additional prep. Their lifespan extends considerably by rinsing, then wrapping them in a paper or tea towel and storing them in a sealable container. Not to mention the amount of time this saves when it comes to whipping up a leafy green dish. Broccoli can, however, keep well in a freezer.
Storage times for these green goods include three to five days for spinach and up to one week for lettuce and cabbage.
Green beans and peas
These pod plants store well in a fridge if you intend to eat them fresh from your home vegetable garden. To keep your beans and peas fresher for longer, blanche and keep them frozen. When blanching, be sure to trim the ends and remove the long fibrous strands, then store the beans in a sealed container.
Unwashed and unblanched beans can store up to seven days in the fridge, whereas frozen beans can last up to six months.
We hope you have a smashing spring, spent gathering and enjoying your cool season vegetables. For more ideas or advice for your home vegetable garden or other projects, contact us for expert tips and tricks.