In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2001
Regional Report

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Check peas daily so you can pick them at the peak of sweetness. If left on the vines too long, they'll get starchy tasting.

Harvesting Winter Vegetables

Spring is garden starting time, but for many gardeners in our region, it's also harvest time. All the vegetables and herbs planted last fall and winter are getting ready for harvest. To get the best flavor and freshness, here are some tips on harvesting those cool-season veggies.

General Harvesting

Harvest Jerusalem artichokes, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, and kohlrabi after a hard frost. The chill initiates the change of starches to sugars, so they taste sweeter. Clean excess soil and foliage from vegetables just pulled from the garden, such as carrots and parsnips, in the garden or over the compost pile before bringing them indoors. The soil then stays in the garden, foliage can dry and decay back into the soil, and final cleaning indoors is easier.

Harvesting Asparagus

Spears will be most succulent when they're three-eighths of an inch wide or larger. Cut spears no lower than soil level to avoid damaging the crown. Harvesting smaller spears, especially from young plants, weakens the plant and reduces later harvests. Be generous toward young plants by harvesting only large spears for a few weeks, and your plant will grow stronger and produce better future harvests.

Harvesting Broccoli

Cut the broccoli head at an angle with a sharp knife. Snapping off or cutting flat across the stem creates an uneven surface where water can collect and decay can start. Cutting too far down the stem, where it's hollow, provides a cavity that can collect water, and decay can start there as well.

Get two harvests from heading broccoli by cutting the first head high on the stalk. The lower buds will then form secondary heads that can be harvested a week or so later.

Gathering Herbs

Harvest herbs in early spring while foliage is lush and in the morning just after the dew has dried. For greatest pungency, harvest herbs in the early summer before the blossom buds open. If the herb fragrance is in the air, the oils have already dissipated from the leaves and your harvest should wait until the next morning.

Picking Lettuce

Pick individual leaves of lettuce (except head lettuce) over several months' time, rather than waiting for a single harvest of each mature head. This long-term harvesting provides for continuous gourmet salads of tender and succulent leaves. Snap off all the outer leaves, leaving the two or three innermost leaves to grow. Discard leaves that are overmature, chewed, or decaying into the compost pile. With this harvesting technique, you can grow many plants closely together in a small area and harvest tasty, high-quality salads over a long period of time.



Picking Peas

Harvest pea pods as they mature. Take a few every day to check for peak sweetness. Allowing them to mature too fully on the vine will stop further blossoming, and they won't be very sweet. I separate my plantings of edible-pod peas (snow and snap), so I'm sure to know which to harvest when. I put my husband's favorites, shelling peas, in a completely different bed.


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