Fall isn’t called “harvest time” for no reason — this change of seasons from warm to cool or even cold signals the time of year when everything we’ve grown in the veggie garden is removed. On top of harvesting all the garden goodies to enjoy immediately, this is a time of year for preserving and storing food to enjoy later when fresh produce is not as available. Follow these guidelines to get the most out of your harvest season.
Tips For Fall Harvest
Harvest: First, know what types of veggies you have in your garden, and when they should be harvested. While that may sound obvious, beginner gardeners are new to harvesting, or more experienced gardeners tried new veggies in their garden this year and are unsure of how to harvest them.
So, get this information before going any further.
- Most leaf, stem, and root crops are harvested earlier in their more tender stage.
- Fruit or seed crops (tomatoes, peppers) are best picked when they are as ripe as possible.
- Herbs generally taste better before they have gone to seed, and many root crops like carrots, potatoes, and onions have a longer harvest time than other veggies.
- Harvest in the morning when your veggies have the highest water content, or on a cloudy or cool day.
6 Tips for Storing Food
Storage: Storage methods depend upon what, exactly, you’re storing. Here’s a roundup of the most frequently used methods:
1. Refrigerator: Use ventilated polyethylene bags to store veggies in the fridge to maintain their high quality and prolong their freshness. This is ideal for lettuces, peas, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, and herbs.
2. Countertop: Tomatoes and peppers, as well as peaches and plums, do quite well out on the countertop — no fussy storage necessary!
3. Root cellar: A cool, dark cellar or basement is an ideal place to store veggies like carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, and cabbage.
- Potatoes will store nicely in a root cellar, but make sure to cure them first. Cure potatoes for 1-2 weeks then move them into your root cellar.
- Store your veggies by hanging them or in a storage rack.
- Pack veggies in sand, sawdust, straw, or hay.
- Keep vegetables dark, they sprout in the light.
4. Freezer: Most fruits and veggies can be frozen if you quickly blanch them in boiling water first. This process locks in the flavor and all the valuable nutrients in your harvest so they are ready to go when it’s time to make dinner. Be sure you label and date them clearly.
5. Canning: Canning is a great way to store and preserve high-acid and low-acid alkaline foods. You can pickle vegetables in brine or can fruits in syrups for preserves, relishes, and chutneys. Be sure you thoroughly understand the process in order to can safely. The last thing you want is to introduce bacteria into your preserves that can sicken family members and waste a ton of produce.
- Water bath for high-acid foods.
- Pressure canning for Low-acid alkaline foods.
6. Drying: Drying is a great way of storing food from a garden harvest. Drying is an easy way to preserve herbs, but other veggies and fruits can be easily dried/dehydrated as well.
Hang herbs upside down to dry, or spread them out onto horizontal screens.
Use a food dehydrator to speed the process up for larger quantities of harvest.
You can dehydrate your fruits, veggies, and herbs in an oven at low temperatures. You can also add spices and herbs to add flavor to your dried harvest.
Tip: When storing food long-term ensure that your storage areas are temperature and moisture controlled. Temps 32-55 degrees F with a relative humidity of 80-90% are ideal — purchase a humidity gauge at the hardware store to get an accurate reading.