how to harvest

Harvesting Lettuce Seeds

From November through April, I don’t buy salad from the grocery store. No need. I get all I need from my garden. I wish I could tell you the same held true for spinach, but in Central Florida, I’m having a tough time growing the greens. Spinach prefers a cooler climate–something I don’t have.

lettuce and scallions

Lettuce doesn’t like the heat much either, but thrives in Florida six months out of the year. I’ll take it. Nothing beats walking to the garden and harvesting fresh greens for a salad.

plentiful kale

I usually grow bibb, arugula, red sail and kale. And when spring rolls around, I’ll allow a few to go to seed and harvest them for next year. Once the plant goes to flower, the blooms will close up and form seeds. To see how it works–watch this quick video.

lettuce going to seed

Sustainable gardening. It’s a gift from nature.

Football Means Peanuts!

Football season has kicked off and that means boiled peanuts! South of the Mason-Dixon line, anyway. Down here you can’t go to a football game or tailgate party without your Styrofoam cup of steaming peanuts. Just isn’t done.

Now as nature would have it, your peanuts are ready to be pulled from the ground right about now. A few eager beavers might have already done so, but for the bulk of us—now’s the time. Your blooms have gone, your pegs have dropped and your leaves have yellowed.

peanuts pulled from the ground

To harvest, you’ll want to lightly dig down around one of your plants to check their progress. Using a fork, gently lift the pegs from the dirt.  A ripe peanut will feel firm, its outer shell somewhat dry and “papery.”   More

How to Harvest Black Beans

Black Turtle beans are some of my favorite beans to grow. Not only are they easy, but oh-so-delicious when combined with onions, oregano, garlic and olive oil. Very similar to black bean soup, I love this mix of cooked beans and rice–a definite “must eat” in our household.

black beans for dinner

Growing black beans requires warm weather and a mild fertilizer and that’s about it. For your first batch, you can order an organic black turtle bean online (or other variety). Plant bean seeds (bean and seed are the same thing) about an inch deep and water well.  In a month your bean pods will form and in two months, you’ll be looking to harvest!

But how do you know when your black beans are ready? I mean, these are what we call “shelling” beans, which means we don’t eat the pod as a whole–like we do with pole beans or garden peas. We have to open the pods, remove the beans and dry them.

black beans at maturity

With this variety of black bean it’s a no-brainer. When your pod turns a beautiful deep eggplant color, your beans are ready to harvest.

“What happens if I’m on vacation and I miss the peak harvest?” More

Spring Sweet Onion Harvest

Oh how I love this time of year!  After six long months of tending, weeding and waiting (the latter of which this gardener doesn’t do particularly well), my onion tops went brown and fell over so I duly dug these puppies up–gently.  Woohoo!  Someone ring the cow bell and dance the farmer’s jig–the sweet onions are ready!  And we have some doozies.  Big ones, round ones, small ones and–

What the heck?  Red ones?  I never planted any red ones.  How did these little pumpkins end up amidst my splendor of sweet white onions?

Hmph.  Told you those bags of seeds and plants you buy come stocked with all sorts of surprises.  Remember Tami’s blueberry/weed?  Well here’s the proof it can happen to anyone.  Red onions were mixed in my batch of onion sets.  Oh, well.  We humans are fallible, aren’t we?

I forgive them.  Besides, these look awfully tasty.  A bit of “Siamese Twins” growth going on, what with them joined at the bulb, but who cares?  I bet that won’t make one iota of difference once I chop them into salsa.  Or maybe I’ll cook them up with some of my black beans.  Mmm…

Yes, maybe it’s time for some black bean soup.  Those onions I don’t use right away I’ll store in my special covered onion basket or chop them up for the freezer.  I could always braid them to hang and store.  Looks kinda cool. 🙂  For best storage prep, lay your onions out for a sun bath (in Florida, you might want to do this under the shade of a tree).  Give them about a week to crisp their delicate papery skins.  Helps in lengthening storage time.

One year, a few of my onions began to flower.  Had I waited (remember, patience is not my strong suit), I could have learned the art of onion seed saving.  Though come to think of it, I didn’t have a lot of luck with the onion seeds I purchased and planted.  Should I really go to all the trouble of doing it myself?

Perhaps.  They are extra sweet when enjoyed fresh from the garden.  And barely a tear in the kitchen when it comes to slicing and dicing.  *sigh*  We’ll see.  Don’t count me out of the onion seed saving business yet.  There may be hope for me still… 🙂

I’ll keep you posted.  But until then, consider some sweet onions for your garden.  One fall day of planting makes for a lovely spring harvest.

Spring Harvest!

Now I realize many of you are still waiting for the ground to thaw and my heart goes out to you.  Truly, it does.  Here in Florida, we don’t even know what frozen tundra looks like!  No clue.  The kids have studied that kind of thing in class, but they don’t live it nor do they garden by it.

Okay, that’s a lie.  Jack Frost does nip our noses once in an ice crystal moon, but it’s rare.  Thank Goodness!  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be harvesting up a spring storm–squash, sweet onions, black beans, pole beans and soon to be potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and sunflowers!  Woohoo!  Are you jumping up and down with me?

Figured you were.  Gardening is plain old exciting, isn’t it?  Take a look at these harvest bunnies in action. 

You probably guessed these kindergarteners above are in charge of the pole bean harvest.  But what about these lower elementary students?  Can you tell what they’re after by looking at the plants?  Ask your kids.  Bet they can! 🙂  

Now most folks aren’t familiar with growing black beans and wouldn’t know how to determine when to pluck them.  Actually, it’s real easy.  Think “black bean” and you’ll know.

 

Isn’t that a gorgeous shade of purple-black?  I call it eggplant but most of the kids refer to it as purple.  Though some times these pods can fool you.  As the kids were shelling them, they learned this the hard way.

 

“How come mine is purple?”

“Why is mine blue?”

Because Mother Nature enjoys the mellow end of the rainbow?  Is wonderfully creative?  Likes to play tricks on gardeners?  Your guess is as good as mine, but if you ask me, I think these beans are beauties. 

And going to pull in a bunch of money!  You see, the students are harvesting beans and seeds for their first annual school fundraiser (of course we’ll only be selling the mature, black ones).  We’re talking total self-sustainability here,because not only do we plant the seeds and grow the plants, harvest the seeds and replant–we’re going to pay for all the gardening supplies that we need to do the job!  Gloves, tools, garden tape, fresh mulch and alas, those seeds we have to master harvesting. 

It’s not because we’re not near fabulous gardeners, but carrots take a couple of years to produce seeds.  Who has that kind of time?  And onions.  Those babies are tough to get started from seed and we’d just assume deal with the onion “sets” (onions in sprout form).  Besides, sweet onions take long enough as it is!  We planted ours in October.

So for our first annual seed selling fundraiser, we’ve harvested black beans, pole beans and squash (squash, courtesy of the middle school students) and will soon harvest the rest.  We also found a few friends along the way.  Some nice…

Some not so nice…

But we didn’t just harvest and “discover” this week–we ate.  Of course we did!  Sautéed squash and sweet onions was on the menu today.  Glazing the squash and caramelizing the onions enhances the sugary taste of this dish, perhaps even lends a cinnamon quality to it?  That was the reaction from our taste test!

You can find the recipe for this savory sweet delight in my recipe section.