HOW TO PICK BROCCOLI
1. Select a mature Broccoli head. Broccoli heads range from 3-9 inches across depending on the variety, so it's very important that you know how to tell if a head is mature or not.
A Broccoli head is made up of many, many, tiny green flower buds, and each bud will eventually open up into a yellow flower. A Broccoli head starts out very small with TIGHT buds. The head is hard and the buds can not be squeezed together....
....or pulled apart.
Although this Broccoli head is perfectly edible it is not mature and it would be a crying shame to pick it. If it's left on the plant it will continue to grow and get significantly larger.
A mature Broccoli head has buds that are plump and loose. You should be able to see a few buds that look like they could open up into flowers at any time.
....and pull them apart.
NOTE: Broccoli heads that have bloomed are perfectly edible and really quite pretty, but the longer they bloom the tougher they get.
2. To harvest a Broccoli head it is best to use a serrated knife. Cut the stem at a fairly sharp angle just below the head to allow the rain to run off the stump easily to try to prevent the stem from splitting and rotting.
3. Many people do not realize that after a Broccoli head is harvested the plant will continue to produce numerous side-shoots called "sprouts".
You can harvest sprouts with a serrated knife....
Or by carefully snapping them off with your fingers....
4. Broccoli is $5.00 for a large head or a green plastic strawberry crate full of sprouts.
NOTE: Broccoli leaves are also edible and can be used just like Kale!
HOW TO PICK CARROTS
1. Carrots are really easy to pick, but you have to remember that they cost 20 cents a piece regardless of size, so you need to know how to judge how big a Carrot is BEFORE you pick it. You cannot judge a Carrot's size by it's foliage. Bigger foliage does not always equal bigger carrots. Check out this one....
It has really tall foliage with fairly stocky stems, but the root is small. The best way to judge the size of a Carrot is to pull the dirt away from the base of the stem to see how big "around" the root is...
That doesn't tell you how "long" it is, but it's the best you can do. If you decide the carrot is not big enough you should cover the top of the Carrot up with dirt again, otherwise the top of the Carrot will turn green.
blurry action shot
2. Once you have selected the best carrot you can, just grab it by the stem and pull it out....it will come out easily.
I usually only grow "Nantes" Carrot varieties. They are relatively short with blunt ends.
3. Children are welcome to pick carrots under the direct supervision of their parents. Carrots are fun, fun, fun to pick, and children have a tendency to pick handfuls at a time. These particularly sweet girls did an excellent job....most of the time they were finding bigger ones than I did!
4. Once you've picked your Carrots it's a good idea to go directly over to the hose to rinse them off.
The spray will wash the dirt off the freshly picked Carrots quickly and easily.....whereas if you wait until you get home to wash them the dirt will have dried on and you will have to scrub them to get all the dirt off.
5. Lastly, it's important to sit down in the sun for a few minutes to enjoy the fruits of your labor...
But I've got to warn you.....you can't stop with just one!
HOW TO PICK CAULIFLOWER
1. Pick out a fully mature Cauliflower head.
Cauliflower is edible at any stage of maturity, but each plant only produces one head during its lifetime, so it is important to know how to tell when a head is fully mature. It should have a flowerhead made up of "curds" that are tightly formed.....
When the curds are starting to separate it's called, "Ricing"......
The goal is to let the heads mature RIGHT UP TO THE POINT where they want to start ricing.
White Cauliflower heads often start to take on a slightly purple tinge....
This does not affect the flavor at all. In fact, some varieties of Cauliflower are shockingly purple!
2. Grasp the Cauliflower head with one hand while using the other hand to cut the head loose from the plant above the root but below most of the leaves, using a serrated knife.
The root is very tough so you don't want to cut too low, but the stem of the cauliflower plant is delicious so you don't want to cut too high.
3. Cauliflower leaves are edible and can be used like Kale so you can take them home......but if you don't want them you can cut them off here at the U-pick garden and I will compost them....
4. It is a good idea to check under the leaves for slugs...sometimes you can flush them out by using the hose.
Large Cauliflower heads are $5.00 each.
HOW TO PICK GARLIC
1. Choose a Garlic plant that is mature. That is kind of hard to do...it has alot to do with what kind of weather we have been having. Normally, a mature plant has more dead leaves than live ones.
2. Place a trowel about 4 inches from the Garlic stalk. Be sure the trowel is exactly straight up and down, not at an angle, and shove it down into the ground as far as you are able to reach.
If you shove the trowel down at an angle you will probably chop the Garlic bulb in half.
3. Pry the trowel up with one hand while you pull up on the Garlic plant stalk with the other hand.
I had to use my other hand to take the photo
4. Knock the majority of the dirt off the Garlic bulb with the trowel over the garden bed.
5. Trim the roots with a scissors to about 1 inch long.
6. Cut the Garlic stalk off with a sharp knife, leaving a stump about 3-4 inches long.
7. Blast the dirt out of the roots, and the soggy outer layers of skin off the bulb with a spray nozzle.
Garlic bulbs are $3.00 each. They are good for both eating and replanting.
HOW TO HARVEST GARLIC GREENS
When I have tiny garlic cloves I plant them in a separate bed with about 1-2 inch spacing. These cloves sprout up in the Spring and look just like green onions. They can be harvested early in the season - long before garlic bulbs are ready.
1. Select a garlic green.
2. Garlic greens grow long, strong roots, so it's important to use a trowel to dig them up. If you try to pull them up without using a trowel they will likely snap off.
3. Be sure to run the trowel straight down along side of the garlic green rather than at an angle, to be sure you don't cut the garlic green in two pieces.
4. Once the trowel is deep enough in the soil you can pry it up with one hand and pull up the garlic green with the other hand.
Garlic greens can be used just like green onions, but they taste like garlic!
HOW TO HARVEST GARLIC SCAPES
Garlic is harvested in August, but around July 1st the plants put out a curly flower stalk called a "Scape".
The scape, if left on the plant, will open up into a flower and produce seeds. This activity takes alot of energy, so it's important to remove the scape to be sure the plant is putting all of it's energy into producing a large bulb of cloves. Fortunately, these scapes are funky and fun and absolutely delicious!!!
1. Choose a young, tender scape that is plump and curled. Old scapes are tough and fibrous.
2. Use a knife or clippers to remove the scape from the plant right above the last leaf blade.
3. You can use the scapes in pesto, or chop them up and put them in a stir-fry. I've even been known to eat them raw for a snack while I'm working in the garden!
HOW TO PICK KOHLRABI
1. Kohlrabi are $3.00 each regardless of size, so be sure to pick out one that is large enough to be worth picking....roughly 4 inches across seems good to me.
2. There are 2 ways to harvest Kohlrabi, either pull them out or cut them free. In this example I pulled it right out of the ground.
3. Carefully set the root ball on the ground. Kohlrabi has quite a large root ball and it makes quite a mess if you shake the dirt off.
4. Use a really strong clippers to cut the bulb loose from the root ball and throw the root ball in the compost pile.
5. Remove the "core" of the root with a shallow cut using a pointy paring knife.
6. Peel the bulb. The peeling is thicker on the bottom then it is on the top. Discard the peelings.
7. People ask me all the time how I cook my Kohlrabi. Honestly, I have never cooked one.....I doubt if one has ever even made it to our table. Kohlrabi is just a delicious snack that needs to be eaten raw while standing over the sink.
8. Remember to gather up the leaves and use them just like Kale. Some folks even think they taste BETTER than Kale.
My good friend, Lisa Ropp, who I have known since my earliest childhood, agreed to show us how to pick lettuce.
Out here at the U-pick I grow only "cut-and-come-again" lettuce.....mostly leaf and romaine varieties. If harvested correctly, these varieties will provide 2-3 cuttings.
1. Select the lettuce plant you want to harvest and gather the entire plant together with one hand.
2. With the other hand, use a serrated knife to cut the entire plant off about 3 inches above the ground.
3. It's important not to cut the plant too low...if the heart is damaged the plant will not be able to produce more leaves.
4. Slice all the way through the plant being sure not to leave any leaves uncut, or damage any of the surrounding lettuce plants.
And that's it!
Lettuce was harvested from these plants just 2 days ago and look at how much they've grown back already!
When you cut leaf lettuce a white substance can be seen oozing from the cut edges. This substance is quite bitter, so for best taste results you should immerse the lettuce in a sink full of cold water as soon as you get home for at least 5 minutes to draw it out.
HOW TO PICK PEA PODS
1. Look through the foliage to find the pea pods....they hide behind leaves and can be really hard to find, so sometimes you need to squat down to look carefully.
2. Select a ripe pea pod to pick. A ripe snap pea is long and plump like this....
...not skinny like this...
A ripe Snow Pea is long too, but it is flat with plump little peas inside....
(the yellow pods are a specialty pea pod)
3. DO NOT grab the pea pod with one hand and yank it off the plant like this...
If you pick a pea pod with one hand you might pull the plant right out of the ground! Instead, grab the plant with one hand and pull the pea pod off with the other...
4. Rinse the pea pods and snap the tops off with your fingers. They should come off easily, but if the pea pods is overly mature and the cap has a string attached, then carefully pull the string off and throw it away. Stringy pea pods are hard to chew!
I usually only plant "long" radishes here at the U-Pick garden. I find they provide more volume per square inch than round ones. I have both red and white varieties.
1. Select a radish that looks large enough to suit you. Most of the time they are poking up out of the ground a bit, so it is easy to tell how large they are.
2. Be sure it's the one you want....radishes are 20 cents a piece regardless of size.
3. Grasp the plant at the base of the stem and give it a little pull.
4. Radishes pull up easy!
Watch again carefully.....
It's so easy, a child can do it!
This year's radishes are so juicy and delicious! It must be all of that rain and sun we've been having!
Thanks, guys....you did a great job!
HOW TO PICK ZUCCHINI
1. Look through all the plants first to find the largest zucchinis. Zucchini are $2.00 each regardless of size, so be sure you select ones that are big enough to suit you.
2. Grab the zucchini with one hand and gently twist it until it snaps off the plant where it wants to. If the plant moves too much like it wants to break off rather than give up the zucchini, you may have to support the plant with your free hand to keep it from moving.
And here some things about zucchini blossoms that you may not know....
Very few zucchini varieties are self-pollinating. Most varieties produce both male and female flowers that need insects to bring about successful pollination. It's easy to tell the male flowers from the female flowers....
This is a female flower....it is seen on the end of a baby zucchini.
This is a male flower...it is on a skinny stem that has no baby zucchini on it.
An insect has to crawl around inside the male flower and then inside the female flower to pollinate the female flower. If pollination is not successful the baby zucchini will die. Sadly, each flower is only open for 1-2 days.
And then it droops, closes, and dies.
Zucchini blossoms are not only edible, they are delicious! I like to stuff mine with shredded mozzarella cheese, dredge them in flour, and fry them in butter...........Yummy! I sell blossoms for 50 cents a piece here at the u-pick garden, but I am VERY fussy about which ones you pick. They have to be "spent" flowers.
A spent flower is one that was open and is now shut...thus completing it's roll in life.
This male flower hasn't opened yet. If you picked it now, it would never have the chance to help pollinate female flowers.
This male flower was open earlier and is now "spent". It is okay to pick this one. You can just snip it off with a scissors.
This female flower was open earlier and is now "spent" too. It is okay to pick this flower, but you have to pick it off with your fingers very carefully.
If you pry it gently sideways, and it snaps off easily and cleanly it's ready to pick. If it doesn't want to come off easily and the zucchini is starting to bend like it's going to break, it's not ready to pick. If a bit of the end of the zucchini snaps off with the blossom the zucchini it leaves an open "wound" and the zucchini will likely rot and die.
Each plant produces quite a few blossoms, so if you've never tried them before you should come on out to the garden and pick a few!