Harvest Mode: Things Are Heating Up.
This week we dish on harvesting garlic, sneaking "new" potatoes, what to do with overabundant zucchini and chard, and suggestions for more ways to learn about gardening.
Let's dive in!
It’s late July so that means it’s time to harvest your garlic. Wait until about half the foliage has turned brown. You will pull the whole plant out of the ground, but you can gently dislodge the plants with a garden fork if you need to.
You can use the fresh garlic right away or store some in the fridge, and that’s a real treat! If you want to save it through the winter you will have to cure the bulbs. To do that, hang your garlic upright with all the foliage and roots attached, in bunches of 5-10 in a dry place out of the sun with very good ventilation (we tie two bunches together and hang them over rafters in a shed). Curing takes about 2 - 3 weeks, depending on humidity, and when finished all the foliage will be brown and withered.
After they are cured, lop off the roots and tops. Save 20% for next planting year (save your biggest bulbs for planting) and store the rest for use.
Here's a quick video with good tips for harvesting and curing garlic.
Your potato plants should be looking very full by now, some may even be flowering. But don’t worry if they aren’t. It doesn’t always happen. They are still forming tubers under the ground.
It can be tricky to know when to harvest potatoes because the produce is underground. If you planted your spuds in May, meaning it’s been over 8 weeks, you can start reaching your hands down into the soil about 4-5” to steal what we call “new potatoes” to eat now. These will be thin-skinned, small to medium-sized tubers.
Be careful not to disturb the roots too much and readjust the soil to cover up the stem when you're done fishing around.
For your main harvest, you want to wait until the foliage dies back to dig deep and retrieve the tubers. We usually wait until mid-fall to dig our potatoes because there is no better place to store them than in the cool, moist ground.
With our humid summers on Cape Cod, we sometimes get blights that cause the leaves to turn yellow and then brown. If this should happen you can cut back all the foliage, bag it, and bring it to the landfill. Blights are fungi that can live in soil for years, so don’t compost it or you can spread the blight. Your potatoes will still be safe down in the ground until fall. Definitely plant your potatoes in a different place next year, and if any strays show up from last year be sure to dig them up and destroy them because they probably carry the blight.
Either way, don’t hold back on digging and enjoying those potatoes as you need them!
Zucchini Coming Out Your Ears!? But why is the end rotting?
Something happens in early July and the summer squash plants just explode. The leaves double in size each week and the blossoms are nonstop. Sometimes you will notice that the end of the fruit that has the blossom will turn brown and mushy. That’s called blossom end rot. This is due to a calcium deficiency and is easily remedied. Here are three ways to combat blossom end rot:
You can save up your eggshells and crush them up fine in a food processor and sprinkle the dust around your squash plants to give them calcium.
Crush up 1-2 antacid tablets and spread around each plant to give them a quick dose of calcium.
Mix one gallon of water with one cup of milk and spray it on the plant and soil.
Also, you can prune some of those leaves to increase air circulation. The developing zucchini benefit mostly from the leaves growing above them. Any leaves below the developing fruit can be pruned. Take the leaves off down at the base so you aren’t leaving any stems, which are hollow tubes that collect water and rot.
We will talk about thwarting powdery mildew next time!
Recipe Ideas: Zucchini and Chard!
Zucchini are great. Until you all the sudden they start flowing into your kitchen by the armful. They fill up counter space, and forget the fridge - that was full ages ago. Do you think the neighbors will take some? Please?
This year we looked for more creative ways to use up those patty pans and zucchini. We've made a few loaves of zucchini bread and sautéed them with spices to put in tacos and burritos. They are great thinly sliced on sandwiches and in spring roles. Our new favorite is zucchini hash browns. Quick and easy, great for any meal, and full of possibilities.
Zucchini Hash Browns:
1 medium zucchini
1 tbs flour
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for cooking
fresh garden herbs
Using a box grater or spiralizer, grate the zucchini and potato.
Remove some liquid by placing them in a fine mesh bag, cheesecloth or even paper towel and squeezing out any excess liquid over the sink.
Transfer veggies to a medium bowl and add flour and spices, and mix until everything is evenly coated.
Scoop about a quarter cup of your mixture onto a hot oiled pan and flatten out the grated veggies to your desired hash brown thickness and shape.
Cook on one side until brown and then flip. Keep cooking to your desired crispiness.
This recipe is very versatile, so make it your own! Add carrots or finely chopped onion, and play with the spices and herbs you have in your garden and kitchen.
Chard can also be prolific. The standard sautéed chard with butter, salt and pepper is a great addition to any meal, but what else can we do with all these greens? Well for one, we've started using the large flat leaves as a replacement for bread with egg salad or tuna sandwiches, or really any sandwich wrap. The rainbow stems make a nice fridge pickle, but our favorite recipe yet is a chard tahini dip.
Chard Tahini Dip:
1-2 lb swiss chard, ribs removed and chopped
3-5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup tahini
1/3 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet and add handfuls of chard at a time, letting the first one wilt and bit and then adding the next and so on to fit everything in the pan.
Add minced garlic and some salt and pepper.
Once chard and stems are wilted and tender, let them cool in a bowl before transferring them to the food processor.
Add tahini and lemon juice and blend until smooth.
We've been eating this with crackers and pita, on veggie burgers and in salads. Happy cooking!
Some Fun Learning
Due to the pandemic, many university extension programs have moved workshops and learning sessions online. The silver lining for gardeners has been an explosion of high-quality gardening advice, which before might have been more accessible to commercial growers, but now is available to anyone with internet.
Several UNH Extension workshops are online, including this Introduction to Low-Till and No-Till Gardening on July 30th (we highly recommend reduced tilling to build fertility and store carbon!) and an open Veggie Gardening Q&A on August 3rd, both of which will be held on Facebook Live for anyone to participate. The staff leading these workshops are both real pros!
NOFA Summer Conference Happening Now (July 20th - Aug 9th)
This excellent conference is now available from the comfort of your home. You can attend "live" while it's being held and interact or you can watch the recorded sessions. To register click here.