Top 5 – Things I don’t know about harvesting

I got so much fabulous info from my last top 5 post – Things I don’t know about preserving,  that I thought I’d continue the theme, only this time I would concentrate on harvesting.  A lot of the other inspiration for this post has come from L from 500m2 in Sydney who not only enlightened me about when to harvest blueberries but also shares my frustration with parsnips that break during harvest.  Which not particularly co-incidentally is my number 1 this week.

  1. How do you harvest parsnips?  Carrots I find are usually nice and easy to harvest, generally coming away from the dirt they are in relatively easily.  Not so parsnips, which seem to cling to the soil and quite often break half way down.  Much like the large one in the photo below.   Parsnips - Hollow CrownSo how do you do it?  How do you harvest parsnips to ensure they emerge from the soil unscathed and ideally free from fork damage?
  2. Does cutting some coriander leaves encourage it to bolt?  It seems that everytime I start harvesting from a coriander plant it seems to bolt not long after.  Now this might be more about the tendency of coriander to run to seed in Melbourne’s climate but I wonder if the very act of ‘pruning’ it is accelerating the process.Coriander
  3. Does bandicooting potatoes effect total yield?  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term ‘bandicooting’ it basically means: to rummage around in the ground looking for early harvests while the plant is still growing.  I have often wondered if this process affects total yield.  I  imagine that the yield is spread across the bandicooting period but is it affected beyond that.  Do you get less potatoes (or more) if you disturb it by bandicooting?kipfler potatoes
  4. Will cabbages and cauliflowers ever regrow after harvest?  Lots of plants can be treated as cut and come again.  Lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel and so on.  With some of these you are only cutting part of the plant, but with others you can harvest pretty much all of it and it will still regrow (I am thinking about celery and fennel in particular here).  My question is what about cabbage and cauliflower?  Do they regrow at all?  Or simply take too long to bother waiting for?  Or is there some other reason you don’t hear about it happening?
  5. How can you tell if a melon is ripe?  Now this last one is part ambition and part hope.  I have yet to successfully grow a melon.  As in, have a vine set a fruit.  Admittedly I haven’t tried very often and those times I have I haven’t really had them in the right place to succeed.  I am considering trying again this year though.  And if I do, and if one sets, how will I know when to pick it?

And now that I have revealed my ignorance on these harvesting issues and dilemmas I await your wisdom.

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24 Responses to Top 5 – Things I don’t know about harvesting

  1. Louise says:

    GREAT questions , the answers to which I will be eagerly waiting for. I want to add to the parsnip pulling problem – leeks – my leeks often snap off when I pull them. As for melon ripeness, I give a gentle little squeeze and before picking get down on my hands and knees and sniff. Yes, it’s an odd sight.
    Can’t wait for answers , bring them on.

  2. You’ve stumped me, sorry! Apart from the melon – Like Louise, I usuallly wait until they smell good, or if they’ve split after rain (which usually happens).

  3. Daphne says:

    Well I don’t know the answers to most of those questions. I harvest my cantaloupes when they slip easily from the vine. Or like you when the rain has made them split and I have no choice. Once they start turning color I check them every day because I know they are close.

  4. Michelle says:

    So far as coriander goes, I think it’s your climate. In the winter my coriander grows and grows and grows… I can cut all I want and it just continues to grow and becomes enormous. The rest of the year it seems to bolt even before I can think of harvesting it.

    BTW, I made your eggplant masala again the other night and my husband nearly polished it all off in one sitting, he took the small amount of leftovers for lunch the next day. That recipe is a winner!

  5. Sharon says:

    I bandicoot pototoes every year, last year I tried an expedriment left one I didnt sneak pototoes from, the harvest at digging up time was more than the raided ones, but when I hadded the amount I sneaked, the the bandicooted potatoes did better, hope that makes sense. I can only grow coriander in the winter in the summer it will only grow in the coolest part of the garden and then it still wants to go to seed.

  6. Mary N. says:

    Parsnips – start the harvest at one edge of the bed and loosen a group of parsnips with a garden fork pushed in as deep as it will go. Grab the top of a big parsnip and pull with one hand while prying with the fork with in other hand.

    Or you can use the technique I use with stuck carrots – take a dandelion weeder and slide the blade straight down and very close to the carrot/parsnip. Then pull the handle towards yourself, while using the other hand to pull up the carrot/parsnip. When the carrot is in a closely spaced row, and the top has broken off, I must first excavate down 2-3″ around the top of the root to get something to hold on to, then do the pulling & prying.

    • Liz says:

      I like the idea of loosening a group of parsnips in one go – It might save me stabbing all of the with the fork as I attempt to get them out.

  7. I haven’t done this myself but apparently if when you cut spring cabbage if you cut a deep cross into the stump it will grow a second crop of greens.

    Our parsnips don’t grow really long and so using a large garden fork does the trick and if a little bit of root breaks off – well we aren’t growing to show.

    We don’t grow melons but I wish those selling them knew when they were ripe enough to harvest rather than selling tasteless specimens

  8. Sarah says:

    Good questions… the only one I can give a not very helpful answer to is the parsnip harvest question. I use a hand fork to gently loosen the soil around the parsnip and lever it out a bit – doesn’t always work though!

  9. Nina says:

    I find that ‘rocking’ the parsnip before pulling helps to loosen it’s grip on the soil and I have very few that snap.

    That’s the only hint I’ve got! Coriander is a bolter, no matter what you do, I reckon!

  10. Stu says:

    If it helps we grew watermelons last year (we live in Coburg too) and I learnt after a couple of very white watermelons to wait until the stem starts to go brown. Was delicious!

  11. I’ve just been having the discussion about bandicooting with J as he can never refrain from it, I always thought leaving it was best, but now I’m not so sure.

    • Liz says:

      I have to say of all the advice I got this is the bit that pleases me most as I like the idea that bandicooting may actually encourage greater crops.

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  13. Dave says:

    I too have been known to get down and sniff my melons to test their ripeness. Another trick is to press on the blossom end – it should have some give to it. And I have gotten cabbages to regrow, but they are usually quite small. Perhaps if I gave them a shot of fertilizer, but usually I just pull the plant.

  14. Rozzie says:

    As far as the coriander goes – where are you getting your seed? Because this year I grew two types of coriander. Both seed types were bought from Mr. Fothergils (Or fotheringils? I can never remember) They have a “For seed” variety and a “For leaf” variety. The seeding variety puts out about two viable leaves you can eat with then desperately heads into flowering. The other shows no signs of bolting and has given me thick foliage with good flavour and I use it daily in cooking in a cut and come again way.

    • Liz says:

      I’ve tried the seed I have used in the past has usually been called things like ‘slow bolt’ etc but I haven’t tried Mr Fothergills before. I was chatting to the guy at the Farmers Market who grows it year round and he says he switches varieties each season. He wouldn’t tell me what grows when – he orders his seed wholesale by the number/code rather than name but he did suggest that different varieties do better in different seasons. I will definitely try Mr Fothergills – thankyou!!!

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