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storage tips
fruits and vegetables
fruit and vegetables
cold climate
harvest time
cloudy days
crops
Harvest And Storage Tips
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Harvest And Storage Tips

In the High Sierra cold climate garden, September, and sometimes even a warm October, finally result in ripened crops ready to harvest. For many of us who lost our first plantings to June snow, the tomatoes and squash are just ready to pick and other crops with longer maturity periods are approaching harvest time.

I often wonder where exactly I am supposed to keep potatoes, onions, and other long-keeping vegetables. I generally put everything (except tomatoes, which I absolutely know not to put in the refrigerator) into the refrigerator and promise myself to look up the definitive proper way to store them. Here are the answers I have researched which will give you guidelines on produce storage.

Morning is recommended by most professionals as the best time to harvest, as this is when vegetables will have the highest water content. Cool or cloudy days are another good time to harvest your crops. Fruits and vegetables produce ethylene gas, some more than others. This gas speeds up the ripening process of other produce. You can store fruit and vegetables separately from ripe produce if you don’t want to hasten the ripening process.

Tomatoes: Harvest tomatoes when they are truly full-colored and firm. Store at room temperature. Cool temperatures cause tomatoes to lose flavor and texture, so never store them in the refrigerator (unless, of course, they are overripe and won’t keep otherwise).

Potatoes: You can harvest potatoes whenever they reach the size you want. You don’t have to wait for signs of full maturity when the stems and leaves turn brown. For storing potatoes, the skins must be tough and not peel off easily when you rub them lightly. At harvest, leave the potatoes outside to dry for a couple of hours. You don’t need to clean them for storage other than to gently wipe off soil. Keep them in complete darkness after they are dried off. They will turn green if you leave them in a container that can be penetrated by light. Some recommend curing the potatoes for a couple of weeks in the dark in a single layer on newspapers at around 50-60 degrees F and then placing them in dark boxes or bags at about 40 degrees F.

Onions: Onions can be harvested when they are big enough to use as green onions at perhaps 10 to 12 inches tall.. Mature onions (bulbs) are ready for harvest when the tops turn yellow and start to fall over. Carefully lift the bulbs out of the ground and remove soil but don’t wash them. Let the onions dry in a well ventilated, dry area for a couple of weeks (not in direct sunlight). When the outer skins are papery and brittle and the tops are withered, cut the tops off somewhat and put the onions in mesh bags - or braid the tops and hang them. Keep in a cool dry spot.

Hardneck Garlic: Harvest when the majority of the leaves begin to turn brown and flop over. Pull a test bulb and make sure that the protective papery skin is formed and that the bulb is segmented into easily separated cloves. If not, wait a couple of weeks and recheck. Do not expose the bulbs to sun. Lightly brush off dirt and store in a well ventilated area. If the bulbs are stored below 40 degrees F they will try to sprout, so don’t store in the refrigerator. You can hang the bulbs or store them on a rack or in a mesh bag. The garlic scapes produced as the garlic matures can be used in cooking and some recommend clipping the scapes to hasten garlic development. Wait a couple of weeks after clipping the scapes to check for harvest readiness. Hardneck garlic can be eaten raw at harvest or left to fully mellow for four to six weeks before use.

Corn: Corn is ready to be picked if a kernel is full of juice when you puncture it with your fingernail. The husk should still be green, but the silk should be brown. You should literally have the water boiling before you go out to pick the corn! This is when you will have the absolute sweetest, fullest flavor. Corn will begin to lose its flavor within ten minutes of picking, so pick only as much as you will use at a meal. Some recommend putting a teaspoon of sugar in the boiling pot before adding the corn for the best flavor.

I have not dealt with melons in this article, as the season in the High Sierra is not long enough or generally hot enough to produce a melon crop - believe me I have tried! The same is generally true for winter squash, though I have planted Butternut Squash this year in hopes of a longer season. At any rate, the plants are pretty in the garden.

Taking into consideration that everyone, of course, has their own theories and experience, these guidelines and individual conditions will always be a factor to consider in storing your garden harvest.


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