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Lettuce, Kale and Collards - Harvest Tips for Maximum Flavor and Nutrition

Get the most flavor and nutritional value from your garden-fresh vegetables with proper harvesting, storage and preparation. 

Going directly from the garden to the table is the best, but usually not practical. So try these tips to preserve your vegetables’ flavor and nutrition.

Leafy crops such as lettuce, kale, and collards quickly wilt after harvest.  With the wilting goes much of the Vitamin C.  Always harvest these crops right before heading back indoors to minimize the wilting.  Better yet, keep them cool from the time you pick until they reach the refrigerator.  Fill a large tub with cold water.  Place the leafy crops in the cold water as you harvest.  Then pat them dry just prior to placing them in the refrigerator.  If this isn't practical, take the cooler to the garden. Use it to keep leafy crops, root crops, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower cool during the harvest process.  Move these into the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.

Wait to wash, trim, and clean your vegetables until right before using them to further preserve vitamins and flavor.

A bit more information:  Harvest the outer leaves of lettuce when 4 to 6 inches long.  Wait to harvest the outer leaves of chard, collards and kale when they are 8 to 10 inches.  Regular harvesting will keep the plants producing.  This means more produce from fewer plants and less space in the garden.  Replace these crops once they are done producing.  They often bolt, send up a flower stalk, or the flavor diminishes as the planting ages and temperatures rise.

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