This time of year is always a teaser, as we have planted our gardens and are now waiting to harvest the fruits of our labor. There is, however, some magic that happens in the late spring/early summer months that gives rise to some highly celebrated veggies.
Here is a snapshot of a few of my favorites: asparagus, the garlic scape, and peas. As the summer solstice has already come and gone, I’m excited for even more magic to happen!
If you have never enjoyed the taste of a freshly harvested asparagus stalk, I suggest running to a local farmer’s market this week, or plant your own!
I recently moved to a house which had a raised garden bed with it 1/3 full of established asparagus (and 4 years along, too—what a treat!). I figured I should just dig out the rest of the bed and fill it completely with this perennial vegetable.
For those freshly planted, I need to be patient and let the plants become established for 3 years before harvesting. That may seem like a long time compared to some vegetables, but it pays off: After the initial wait, an established asparagus bed can produce for up to 20 years!
Make sure to keep replenishing the nutrients after each year by adding a couple inches of compost, aged manure, or 4-6 inches of mulch to the bed in the fall.
Once ready for harvest, cut the males and leave the females behind. The females are the skinny ferns with stems that will bear red seeds (poisonous) and males are the fat spears.
There are varieties available which are all-male, so it may be helpful to know which variety you have before committing to a 20-year plant. Cut the males when the spears are 4-6 inches high and as thick as your thumb.
Cut at—or just below—ground level, and trim at an angle. If the compact tip of the spear has begun to open, you no longer have a young, tender stalk and the texture may be stringy and unpleasant.
Keep checking on the bed every day or every other day throughout the season as you want to make sure to pick EVERY spear. A spear that isn’t cut and manages to flower will slow further shoot production from that root.
Most of the asparagus I harvested this year was either eaten right away or chopped up and added to a salad. Once I let my newly planted bed mature, I’m sure I’ll have more to harvest and can add them to more complicated recipes.
Check out Charlie Nardozzi on WCAX sharing his favorite Asparagus recipes, like creamy asparagus soup!
Those of us who planted garlic in our gardens last fall are now patiently waiting for the harvest, which will most likely be early August. If you are like me, I’ve already eaten all my garlic from last season, and while I supplement by buying, I’m still going through withdrawal from that fresh home-grown flavor.
There’s a remedy for this impatience of mine (and maybe yours): The garlic scape.
A garlic scape is the flower bud produced by the garlic plant in mid to late June. The scape should be cut so that it does not steal crucial energy from the growing garlic bulb.
You will notice the scape emerge from between the leaves. Once it curls like seen in the picture above, cut it as close to the base as possible, while being careful not to cut the surrounding leaves.
I harvested most of my crop last week (June 20th) and placed them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator where they will last for a couple weeks. Some of the scapes were not ready to be harvested, so I will need to check on them weekly.
An added bonus: cutting the scapes will make my garlic bulbs much more flavorful!
I plan to pickle the scapes that I haven’t already added to my morning eggs! Here are 10 more ways to use garlic scapes in the kitchen. 🙂
There are a few types of peas that people often refer to:
- Snow peas
- Garden peas
- Snap peas
Snow peas are flat and crisp with extremely small peas inside and can be eaten raw or cooked. Garden peas have plump rounded pods that hold the standard “pea” most people are familiar with. Garden peas must be shelled and the pods discarded (or added to a stock). Snap peas are my favorite! These are slightly more plump than snow peas, crisp, sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Every year, my partner Nick and I are excited to get the pea seeds into the ground. It is then a race for Nick to weave his yearly “masterpiece” trellis!
No matter the variety, peas should have some sort of support system to help them. Some varieties can grow 12-15 feet if supported correctly!
Once the peas start producing, it is important to keep up on the harvest. The more you harvest, the more the peas will produce!
Snow peas can be harvested once the pod is developed and just as the pea seeds appear. Garden peas can be harvested once the peas are grown inside the pod but don’t wait too long or the peas will become hard. Snap peas can be harvested when the seeds are immature and the pod is still tender.
Both snow and snap peas may have a string that can be peeled before eating. If you are waiting for your peas to fully mature, you can always harvest a few tendrils to garnish a salad (sooo tasty)!
I love adding snap peas to stir fries or just munching on them while I weed the garden. Surprisingly I have to keep the harvest from my dogs because they go CRAZY for peas!
Check out an awesome recipe I found this year for roasted sugar snap pea and scallion spring rolls with tahini sauce. Actually, I substituted garlic scapes for the scallions and it turned out AMAZING!!
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