In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2012
Regional Report

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Tasty little 'tatoes grew underground!

Harvesting: The Great Delight

Although I've already sacrificed some lingering tomatoes and squash and cucumbers -- ripping them out in favor of replenishing the soil with manure, compost, and worm compost, readying the space for fall-maturing new seeds and seedlings -- there are some harvests still to be enjoyed.

Harvest herbs for making wreaths or vinegars as holiday presents. Herb wreaths are easy to make and can include whatever herbs are most used by your recipient. Good choices include basil, oregano, marjoram, anise, parsley, thyme, sage, dill, and tarragon. Rosemary bloom usually waits till end-of-the-year holidays, but fragrant branches can certainly be taken now.

Harvest white and other-color potatoes now, being careful not to cut or bruise them, or leave them in the soil for harvest through the winter. Take care to not expose them to sunlight or soil cracks, however, or they'll develop inedible, bitter green areas. (After off cutting these areas and discarding them, the remaining potato can be eaten.) After harvest, hold the potatoes at 75 to 85 degrees for a week, and then store them at 50 to 60 degrees with high humidity. They should keep for six to fifteen weeks. Don't refrigerate them because when potatoes are stored at 36 to 40 degrees some of their starch turns into sugar, making them taste oddly sweet, and their flesh turns dark when cooked.

Harvest sweet potatoes when the vines yellow. Try to get them before the leaves are killed by frost. Air dry them for a day, then cure them at 85 to 90 degrees with 90 to 95 percent humidity for one to two weeks. Stored cured sweet potatoes at 55 to 60 degrees and 90 to 95 percent humidity. Their flavor improves during storage, as part of the starch content turns into sugar (just what you don't want to happen with white potatoes).

Harvest winter squash, pumpkins, and decorative gourds when the vines are dry and the rinds are hard and resist easy puncture by a fingernail. Cut the stems rather than breaking or tearing them, and leave two inches of stem attached to the squash to lessen the chance of spoilage. Gourds will dry faster if you drill a small hole at each end. Let them cure in a dry, well-ventilated area at room temperature for two weeks. Store cured squash at 50 to 60 degrees in a dry area. Check them weekly for mold. If any appears, wipe it off with a paper towel moistened with vinegar. Squash should keep up to six months.

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