Fruit and vegetables require careful harvesting and storage to make the most of your growing efforts. Storing can extend the season and deal with a glut in produce. Fruit and vegetables need to be picked in their prime to ensure they will store as long as possible. This usually means whilst they are still young and tender.
Water the plants the evening before and pick the veg early in the morning. Alternatively, harvest your veg on a cool evening. The key thing being not to pick during the heat of the day and to get the veg into a cool environment, such as the house, as soon as possible.
Vegetables will start to lose their vitamin levels as soon as they are picked so harvesting and storing vegetables is best done on the same day, where possible.
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Apples & Pears
For storing it is important to carefully pick healthy apples that have not been bruised or are diseased. The fruit should easily release when lifted in your hand. You can use old vegetable boxes, ideally with cardboard linings so fruits do not touch each other. You can also individually wrap apples in paper to protect them. Store in a cool, dark place and check regularly for mould or rot. They can be kept in a fridge on the lowest setting. Wildlife may tuck into your harvest so keep them out of reach! You can also slice apples and dry them out in a dehydrator for tasty snacks beyond the season. Or find someone with a press to make juice or cider from your less than perfect apples & pears.
Choose a dry day. Moist fruit will spoil more quickly and will not make good jam and cannot be stored (unless carefully dried afterwards) – the moist conditions encourage fungal disease. Eat soft fruit as soon as possible or preserve or freeze it. Hold peaches, nectarines and apricots in your palm and gently press near the stalk with your finger tips. The fruit is ready if it feels soft and will part from the tree with ease. Currants should be harvested on their trusses and then removed individually just prior to use. Cut cherries using scissors to avoid ripping the fruit stalk from the flesh
Bottling is a good method to store fruit. You need to reach a very high temp which will kill botulinum bacteria.
Root vegetables – are the storage organs of biennial plants, and therefore can generally be lifted and stored or left in the ground until you need them. Though beware of hard frosts and wildlife; it is preferable to harvest and store if your soil gets waterlogged in winter. Remove excess soil, but do not wash or scrub as this may damage the skin. Remove leaves by twisting off close to the crown and store in a cool dark place.
Peas & Beans - You can freeze these by blanching in boiling water a minute or two and bagging. For some reason beans are not eaten dried as ‘pulses’ in the UK as often as on the continent. Pods can be left on the plant until they are dry, (then hung in a dry room) or podded and spread out on trays or plates with good airflow and shake every so often until fully dry, usually early Dec. Store in airtight containers and use within 2 years. More info here
Further advice and reading
‘Food from your Garden’, a rather old book published by Readers Digest, any edition will have very detailed information on harvesting and storing as well as freezing, pickling etc
‘The Kitchen Gardener’, by Alan Titchmarsh, has a useful section on storing surplus crops
Garden Organic website has some useful information.
Suttons has a useful guide on storing vegetables, including information on preserving, pickling and brewing,