If you haven’t discovered the difference in quality that can be experienced by doing your harvesting early in the morning, you have a real treat ahead of you. Plants, just like humans, have a cycle of activity and rest. During the day, especially when the temperatures are warm, plants put most of their energy into transpiration, pumping moisture from the soil to the leaves where it evaporates into the air.
During the night, plants tend to put more energy into actually growing. In some cases, it is also at night that starches produced during the day are converted to sugar. This is why some sweet corn aficionados get up in the wee hours of the morning (between 2:00 and 3:00am, to be precise) to harvest the sweetest corn possible!
At the moment, I’m harvesting mostly salad and braising greens, and herbs. Today’s photo shows the three pounds that I harvested yesterday morning just as the sun was coming up in the garden. As I picked individual leaves, I could sense the life actively flowing up through the stems. The extremely tender leaves snapped easily. Nothing wilted between the time I started and when I got home.
As soon as I arrived home, I washed all the veggies in a basin of cold water, changing the water three times before giving each bunch a quick spin in the salad spinner. When the spinner had removed as much water as possible, each variety was packed into a large Ziploc bag with a damp Euro-style cellulose dishcloth (available from River Valley Market, and elsewhere) and zipped tightly closed. Harvested and stored this way, the greens will stay fresh all week.
My garden produce represents quite an investment of time and effort, so, of course, I want to make sure I harvest and care for the produce in the best way possible. It also just happens to be the most enjoyable way, for the early morning garden is a truly magical place!