I wanted to say a few words about harvesting and the options you have available to improve how you harvest and how much you harvest. This chapter should be read in conjunction with the chapter of food storage and the chapter on how much space you need to be self sufficient There are lots of important factors to consider:
Taken together it's possible to harvest a lot more food, without making it a chore and without putting your back out.
I've seen a lot of people who don't really harvest from their allotments. They rely so much on the supermarket that it's just too easy to buy their veg and so their allotment harvests are just for special occasions. Others have very modest objectives, one passionate grower that I know once told me that they try to eat "something" from the allotment every day. At this level harvesting is pure pleasure and you hardly need think about how efficient it is.
Once you start growing a lot of food though and especially once you become self-sufficient it really changes. Not just because it becomes so important to you, but also because you will inevitably have to grow a surplus (to avoid shortages) so you won't just be harvesting for yourselves.
Debbie and I harvested over 10,000 meals of fruit and veg last year, it takes a bit of effort and organisation to make sure that it's still healthy and enjoyable at this volume.
Here's how we approach it:
You are much more likely to harvest a lot of food if you schedule a harvest day. We have found that harvesting one or two times a week is optimal. Harvesting every day can get old very quickly.
When you harvest once a week you achieve a level of convenience that rivals or exceeds the supermarket. You will always have plenty of food in the store/fridge and if you take our advice it will be all prepared and ready for use.
Once you get into the habit of harvesting regularly you will really start to see the benefit of having the right tools for the job. Here are some of our favourites.
The most important are a selection of food safe harvest buckets with lids. We like the ones used for fermenting/beer making etc. They are very durable and easy to clean. Ideally you want a bucket for each type of leafy green. We have seven and another ordinary bucket for onions, root veggies/leeks etc.
Buy a range of harvest containers
A good knife is essential too, I particularly like my asparagus harvest knife that I use for so much more.
A good knife is essential
I also highly recommend a good salad spinner, veg keeps so much better when the leaves are moist but not dripping wet.