June 2011

Harvesting an urban vegetable garden

From the garden to the table

By Arnold Brouwer
Director Programa Huertos Educativos
Cochabamba


Photos: Arnold Brouwer
Radishes ready for harvest.

If you started an urban vegetable garden along with the article setting up a vegetable garden published in November 2010 you have probably felt the joy of harvesting a wide range of crops already.

The urban vegetable garden is a great delight and education due to the great variety of crops that are grown and the freshness of flavor you get when cooking and eating recently harvested crops, while we learn that different classes of herbs used in your garden not only avoid plague attacks but also give more flavors to salads, soups and other dishes.


Photos: Arnold Brouwer
Ripe pumpkins.

 

At the moment of planting you can begin defining when the crop should be ready for harvesting. Since all crops have different life cycles you can carefully plan a planting scheme to coincide with a harvest, or you can opt for planting a little bit of the same crop every week in order to have a prolonged harvesting time.

Be very careful in planning your harvests - there are so many gardeners that cannot eat everything they produce, and a few weeks later they end up short on a certain crop!


Photos: Arnold Brouwer
Children harvesting spinach

 

The best moment to harvest any crop is in the early morning when the sun is not too strong. It is also the healthiest moment because the crops contain most nutrients in the early morning.

Harvesting crops the correct way improves the quality of produce:

  • When harvesting mature fruit crops, like a tomato or a pumpkin it is important to leave a small part of the stem on the fruit in order to avoid it rotting.
  • There are two kinds of leave crops. With lettuce and cabbage you harvest them all at once, and with crops like swiss chard, parsley and celery you harvest them several times. Swiss chard is a very satisfying crop since there are up to four harvests from every plant. You can also opt for continuous harvesting by only taking out the biggest leaves.
  • Be careful not to damage the root crops when harvesting. Radish can dry out and turn hollow inside when the harvesting period passes, be careful to harvest on time. Onion leaves should be bent down one or two weeks before harvesting so the bulb can fill up with water resulting in a bigger and tastier onion, while the natural crossing of the carrot leaves usually is a sign that they are ready.

Take care harvesting: work with a sharp knife and use a basket for collecting so the least amount of crops is lost due to damage: This is very important when prolonging a harvest.  Always look for a shady and fresh spot to save vegetables.

San Isidro:
The Farmer Saint

The San Isidro Festival has strong roots among the peasants and farmers of the valleys and mountains of Cochabamba. The saint worship is so widespread that the main temples of Cercado, Tiquipaya, Vinto, Arani, Collpa-Ciaco have a sculpture of this saint and there is a celebration that lasts several days.

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