July 201

When the Time Is Ripe:   Harvesting Vegetables for Best Flavor

All fruits and vegetables have ways of telling us exactly when they taste best, even before we’ve picked them. Learning to recognize these signs takes practice, however. Even the most experienced gardeners might need several tries before they can capture that brief moment between the time a not-quite-ready melon tastes bland and when it is sickeningly overripe. Many factors affect flavor in your vegetables: seed variety, soil type, temperature, season, amount of water, sunlight, and whether they are grown outdoors or in a greenhouse. At harvest time, however, the most important things to consider are time of day, and ripeness.

With few exceptions, vegetables are best harvested in the cool morning hours so that they stay crisp and store longer . If harvested too late, they become limp and wilt quickly, having evaporated much of their moisture and absorbed the midday heat. This is especially important for leafy greens like lettuce, chard and fresh herbs such as parsley and basil. It also applies to crisp fruiting vegetables like peas, and anything in the cabbage family like broccoli and radishes.

If a morning harvest is impossible to fit into your schedule or lifestyle, pick in the evening after the heat of the late afternoon sun has begun to wane. Other fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and zucchini are less sensitive to wilting, so they can be picked later in the day. So can root vegetables like carrots, but make sure to get them out of the sun and into the refrigerator quickly, particularly if the weather is warm.

Testing for ripeness involves all the senses: from tapping and smelling melons to puncturing corn kernels and recognizing the perfect plumpness of a pea! After enough practice and plenty of tasting, you’ll find that your hands learn to find beans of the perfect thickness on their own.  Click for more harvesting information.

2010 Winner
Chianti Rose Tomatoes
"Chianti Rose Tomatoes"
Susy Morris
  Malvern, Ohio

Enter our 8th Annual Photo Contest

So many people write to tell us about their success with our seeds that we'd like to see your results. We invite you to enter your favorite photo that includes a Renee's Garden variety in our 2011 photo contest. The grand prize is a $50 gift certificate. All entries will receive a complimentary packet of seeds (one per person) so don't delay! Deadline for entries is September 15, 2011. We will feature the winning photos in our October newsletter.

Please include no more than three photos with your entry. Include your full name, mailing address, email, the Renee's Garden seed variety pictured and any additional descriptive comments.

TO ENTER: Email your photo and info to: photocontest@reneesgarden.com

Current Renee's "Sunny Supersett" squash on the right, potential new seed on the left.

"Empress of India" nasturtium trial: Note the poor quality of the test in front compared to the Renee's variety in back.

July in the Trial Garden – Comparing Current and Test Varieties
 by Lindsay Del Carlo, Trial Garden Manager

To ensure we are selling the very best seeds, we regularly grow out the same variety from different seed producers to see which is the best strain for our packets. This summer, we've grown "Cherries Jubilee" nasturtiums from two different vendors to evaluate. Now that both are in full bloom, we can see that our current Renee’s Garden selection has the characteristics that we are looking for: plants are very uniform in germination and growth habit and the pretty blossoms are super abundant, and open well above the foliage for a better massed color effect. The other test selection germinated and grew well and the flowers have good color, but the blossoms are less prominent and more hidden in the foliage. So in this case, we will definitely stay with our current seed producer for this variety.

We are also growing out our crookneck summer squash variety,"Sunny Supersett" to comparison to a newer selection of yellow crookneck squash. Our Supersett germinated very quickly with uniform, vigorous plants and abundant, early fruit set and overall it is consistent with what it should be. However, in comparing the varieties side by side, we see that the new trial variety has some very favorable differences. The little sunny squashes have more slender and graceful crooks and somewhat deeper color. Also, the stems of the squash are longer than the current Renee’s Garden variety which makes them much easier to snip from the plant. So the next step, which is always our favorite part, is to do some serious taste testing. If the flavor wins us over, then we may choose to change the variety that we offer.

Another comparison trial is Renee’s Garden ‘Empress of India’ Nasturtium alongside another seed growers selection of the same variety. This classic Nasturtium has beautiful blue-green leaves with rich, vermilion- red flowers. Here we can see that the plants from the other vendor’s seed are small and quite stunted. With this lack of vigor, it is no question that we would stick with our current grower!


"Cherries Jubilee" Nasturtium - trial in back,  Renee's variety in front

The winner - profuse blossoms are set  nicely above leaves

Recipe of the Month
 Zucchini Pancakes

Easy to make and very low in calories, these make a fine lunch or brunch dish.

On Renee's Blog

Sue Shecket, our Webmaster and NW Trial Gardener shares her challenges in this especially challenging gardening year in:  "Summer - Sort Of - in Seattle"

Click Here to view

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Best Wishes,
Renee Shepherd

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