Going back multiple times to harvest produce from the same plant feels like a golden secret. Food that keeps coming back!
Fortunately this secret can be shared with everyone. This post is geared towards gardeners, however purchase these at the grocery store or farmer's market and you can make your own salad mix on the cheap. Commonly leafy greens, here’s a small list of “cut and come again” plants to focus on for a continuous harvest. Most of this information is sourced from Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (see references).
Upon harvesting, the key is the pick the outer leaves while leaving the inner leaves intact to replenish the cycle. We've been doing this with our greens the past few weeks with favorable results - our arugula grows faster than we can eat it! As a side note, we've noticed by the 3rd or 4th harvest, the butter lettuce leaves didn't taste sweet as before. In addition the leaves do not grow back as rapidly. We may plant a whole new batch of lettuce.
This article also discusses a bit the nitrate content in vegetables, a heart-healthy nutrient found in veggies - see here for a quick but informative video on nitrate-containing veggies.
- Arugula, like beets, is a nitrate-rich veggie with vascular health-promoting benefits. 100g of arugula, or 5 about cups, provides 250mg of nitrates.
- Begin thinning the greens 6-8 weeks after planting.
- Two medium beets provide about 500mg nitrates which has shown to improve sprint times in runners and other athletes. Beet greens are higher in nitrate content than the root vegetable!*
- Up to 1/3 of the greens can be harvested without negatively affecting the beet itself according to Rodales. (1) Ready at 6 inches in length. Remember to take the outer leaves and leave the inner leaves.
- Pick the center stalk before the florets open and turn yellow. Soon the plant will yield side sprouts available for picking but may not be as flavorful nor as large, like we noticed with butter lettuce.
- For us, chard (and the next plant, collards) has been highly susceptible to pests due to their large, plentiful leaves. Putting out small cups of beer around the plants helps capture some of the bugs.
- Harvest the leaves as needed, they're good at all sizes just like lettuce.
- This green is bitter when raw but adds a savory punch to dishes when cooked. Good fibrous veggie to fill up on that's also low in calories (33 calories in 1 cup, cooked).
- Harvest when leaves are 1 foot tall.
- A cruciferous vegetable with a peppery taste that'ill add bulk to your salad. I like them cooked with eggs or in stews.
- Baby kale will be ready for harvest about 6 weeks after planting, larger leaves will take longer.
- We tried Butter lettuce this year with great success! According to Rodale's Organic Gardening, lettuce's germination rate is more than 80% (2).
- Various sources recommend "harvesting as needed" since the leaves are good to eat at any size.
- Lettuce can be planted throughout the season since the successive leaves are smaller and more bitter.
- Another nitrate-rich veggie on the list! 100g, or about 3.5 cups, provides 750mg of nitrates.
- Overcrowding will stunt the plant's growth begin harvesting at least six leaves about three to four inches long to thin them out.
1. Bradley, Fern Marshall., Barbara W. Ellis, and Ellen Phillips. Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener. New York, NY: Rodale, 2009. Print.
2. Gretchen, Voyle. "Cut and Come Again Vegetables." MSU Extension. N.p., 9 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 May 2015.