Every fall, I have a hard time getting used to growing lettuce and cabbage after a summer of growing tomatoes and okra. Instead of laboring for the fruit on the plant, you labor for to the plant itself. Because of this, harvesting the produce differs. The hard fact for a winter gardener is, for the most part, each plant only offers one harvest.
Follow these tips to harvest lettuce and cabbage. They’ll help you get the most out of your winter greens!
There are several ways, however, to cheat and maximize each plant’s productivity. Sure, you may not be able to partially harvest a turnip or beetroot, but harvesting their leaves and the leaves of other greens, like lettuce and cabbage, are much more flexible.
How to Harvest Lettuce
Get an early meal on lettuce and greens like kale and turnips by collecting the mature outer leaves and allowing the younger heart to keep growing. The outer leaves can become too mature if left on the plant too long, but a discrete eye can avoid that.
I like to start on one end of a row of lettuce and work down every day, then start over several days later. This provides many prime leaves, perfect for salads.
Once the head matures or just before a hard freeze kills the plants, complete the harvest by cutting the whole head at ground level. Of course, with root vegetables like turnips, you would pull the whole plant up.
How to Harvest Cabbage
You harvest lettuce by cutting the whole head, same as with many other greens. However, harvesting cabbage is a different story. The outer cabbage leaves are worthless to eat, but they have another purpose.
The cabbage head should be large and firm before you harvest it. When you cut it, leave a few loose outer leaves on the base. This allows the stump to continue to grow and produce several smaller cabbage sprouts. These sprouts grow to be 3 or 4 inches in diameter and are tender and tasty.
Using these two techniques, a winter garden can be similar to a summer garden. As the greens grow, they will provide a substantial first harvest for the table. Give your hard-spent garden more than one mow-over this season, and prepare to give the salad fork a lot of use.
Cleaning Your Garden Greens
If you have turnips in your garden or really any greens, here are some tips on how best to clean them.