The salad days of summer

Red peppers and eggplant

How to harvest your vegetables

The lettuce may be over for now, but we have so so much more ready or almost ready to harvest. For your green salad, simply replace the lettuce with kale, swiss chard and beet greens. Along with some basil, carrot tops and parsley and you have a great green summer salad.

Tomatoes should be starting to ripen. Harvest them soon after they change colour. They should be slightly softer than when they are green, and should come easily off the vine with a gentle twist. If you don’t pop them in your mouth directly in the garden, chop and add to your summer salad. My favourite garden tomato treatment, however is to slice them, slice buffalo mozzarella, top with basil leaves and drizzle with reduced balsamic vinegar. Yum.

To harvest peppers, hot or sweet, wait until they have turned colour and harvest by snipping the the stem with a pair of garden shears or scissors. There is no such thing as green peppers! You can harvest them green if you prefer, but all peppers will change colour if you let them ripen. Harvest eggplants the same way, once they have reached the desired size, and become slightly less hard, snip the stem. I like to pop peppers and eggplants on the barbecue drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper.

What to do with all that zucchini? Sometimes the plants just don’t produce well – it could be due to a lack of insect activity, or not enough sun, or not enough water. If the conditions are right, then at this time of year you can get buried under mounds of zucchini or summer squash at this time of year. I like to grate it and use it as a spaghetti replacement, or slice it fry it slightly in butter and put a fried egg on it instead of toast. Zucchini bread, stir fries and on the barbecue are great too!

To see when your beets and carrots are ready, investigate with your finger underground to judge how big the root is. If it is big enough to your liking, then go a head and pick. If it is still small, wait longer. Some will not ever get big, especially if they were not properly thinned at the beginning of the year.

To harvest onions and garlic, wait until the tops are starting to brown and fall over. When they do, gently dig them up being careful not to nick or damage. Eat them right away, or cure by leaving them lying out in the sun for a week or two. Once the neck and skin are all dried up, then you can store in a dark, cool place. Any that have bruising or cuts are not good for storage and should be eaten first.