Monday, 6 July 2009

A Picker's Eye View

I have posted a lot of pictures of plants growing, and fruits collected, but I realised yesterday that I had never posted any showing the process of picking. So having spent all afternoon gathering produce, I thought I would share it - if you could share my backache too that would be great.

So starting with the potatoes I took up the last of the first early Pentland Javelin today - about 12 pounds. The photo above shows a typical plant with the potatoes underneath - most of them grow directly under the top of the plant and this is why "earthing up" is so important, whether you grow them in a tub or directly in the soil. The original seed potato is beneath the potatoes on the right, and the mound of earth above it encourages the formation of roots. But as you can see from the potato on the left, some always grow away from the plant, attached by a long root. So you have to excavate carefully - even so I do miss a few each year.
Here you can see that I lifted the soil underneath the plant with a spade and on the left you can see the roots of the plant with some potatoes attached, others have fallen off as I lifted it. Each of these plants has produced 8-10 potatoes, which is a good crop. The soil will be dug over carefully again and then leeks planted for a winter crop.

According to the textbooks you should use a special potato fork with flat tines to lift potatoes. All I can say about that is that they don't garden on a clay soil - a spade is the only way to do it here, but I do damage the odd potato as a result. Potatoes are often recommended as a ground breaker on a newly cultivated plot. Good idea, but remember the ground is broken by you digging it, not by the potatoes themselves!
The redcurrants look easier than the potatoes to harvest, but they're not, partly because of the quantity. The fruit in this photo is about 3 minutes picking, I spent over one hour at it this afternoon!
Each string of berries has to be pulled off the plant, some I can get at kneeling next to the shrub, some sitting but most standing in the middle of it, bending down and sideways in what I call "garden yoga" - a vigorous workout for every muscle in the body!
At least the redcurrants are on long strings - the blackcurrant bush produces much less, and most fruit is on very short stalks or no stalk at all. Add to that the really staggered ripening - you can see from the photo there are only a few dark purple berries and this means I have to pick every ripe berry individually. If I wait too long the ripe berries fall off and are lost, so I have to pick over the bush every few days.
So this afternoon's collection is a vast quantity of redcurrants, some blackcurrants, more strawberries and a basket of potatoes. A good haul, and a good workout! Above is the longest and most perfect string of redcurrants I found today - 5 in/12 cm long!
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