When to know to harvest brassicas, leafy greens and fruiting plants?
Knowing when to harvest your brassicas, leafy greens, and fruiting plants is essential for obtaining the best flavour, texture, and nutritional value from your crops. Harvesting at the right time also promotes continued growth and productivity in your garden. In this guide, we will discuss the indicators that signal the ideal time to harvest brassicas, leafy greens, and fruiting plants.
Brassicas: Brassicas, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, have unique harvesting indicators depending on the specific variety.
a. Broccoli: Harvest broccoli when the central head is firm and the individual florets are tightly closed. The head should be dark green or green-blue, depending on the variety. Cut the central head at an angle, leaving a few inches of stem, to encourage the growth of side shoots.
b. Cauliflower: Harvest cauliflower when the head is compact and firm, with tightly packed curds. The ideal size varies depending on the variety, but a general rule is to harvest when the head is about 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) in diameter. Cut the head along with a few outer leaves to protect it during storage.
c. Cabbage: Harvest cabbage when the head is firm and well-formed. The size of the head will depend on the variety. Cut the head away from the stem, leaving a few outer leaves to protect it during storage.
d. Brussels sprouts: Harvest Brussels sprouts from the bottom of the stalk upwards, as the lower sprouts mature first. Pick sprouts when they are firm and about 2.5-4 cm (1-1.5 inches) in diameter. Remove any yellowing or damaged leaves as you harvest.
Leafy Greens: Leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, and kale, can generally be harvested when their leaves have reached the desired size and tenderness. Harvesting methods include:
a. Cut-and-come-again: For lettuce and spinach, harvest outer leaves individually as they reach the desired size, leaving the central growing point intact. This method promotes continuous growth and allows for multiple harvests throughout the season.
b. Whole plant: Alternatively, harvest the entire plant by cutting it at the base, just above the soil line. This method is suitable for lettuce, spinach, and kale, particularly if the plant is beginning to bolt or if you need a larger quantity for a meal.
Fruiting Plants: Fruiting plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, also have specific indicators that signal when they are ready for harvest.
a. Tomatoes: Harvest tomatoes when they are firm and uniformly coloured, depending on the variety. For example, red tomatoes should be a deep red, while yellow tomatoes should be bright yellow. Gently twist or snip the tomato from the vine, taking care not to damage the plant.
b. Peppers: Peppers can be harvested at various stages of maturity, depending on your preference for flavour and heat. For a milder taste, harvest peppers when they are green and firm. For a sweeter or hotter flavour, allow peppers to ripen fully to their mature colour (e.g., red, yellow, or orange). Use a sharp pair of scissors or pruners to cut the pepper from the plant, leaving a short stem attached.
c. Cucumbers: Harvest cucumbers when they reach the desired size for their variety. Most cucumbers are best harvested when they are still slightly immature, with a bright green colour and firm texture. Overripe cucumbers