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Biodynamic gardening update: the importance of harvesting on the correct day

 

Photo: Parsley

Photo: Parsley

“It’s amazing. I don’t care if everyone thinks we are mad. By gardening this way we will be growing food with the best flavour.”
“Do you think that I should mention our tests on the blog?”
“Definitely. These are not laboratory tests but they have convinced me. Surely everyone would be interested in growing food that tastes better.”

Danny had just done a blind tasting on some biodynamic flat leaf parsley that I’ve grown this year and some French flat leaf parsley that was already growing in the herb bath. They looked exactly the same but the difference in flavour and even aroma was astonishing. The biodynamic parsley was all that perfect parsley should be. The French parsley tasted a bit sour- it was a year old and had survived the winter under a cloche but I don’t think that’s the reason why it got the thumbs down.

I’m now into my fourth month of biodynamic gardening at the cottage. All is going well so far, good sturdy plantlets and quick germination. There have been a few losses – mainly cucurbits, tomatoes and peppers – I think that I need to fumigate the greenhouse this year. Damping off has been a problem.

Initially the idea of planting by the phases of the moon seemed a bit weird to me. Even my mum was perplexed.
“Does this mean that you will be gardening at night?”

In a nutshell the general idea of biodynamic gardening is that there are four types of days: root, leaf, flower and fruit. Root days are for tending root vegetables, asparagus, onions and garlic. Leaf days focus on leafy vegetables and herbs; these include all brassicas, salad and stir fry leaves, Swiss chard and the like. Flower days are just that – time to sow and tend your flowers. And finally fruit days are for tomatoes, peas, beans, peppers, all fruit and nuts and cucurbits (such as courgettes and squash).

Consideration is also paid to whether the moon is waxing or waning, ascending or descending. As yet I’ve just been concentrating on following the days. So all sowing, potting on and planting takes place on the relevant day. And now we will extend this to harvesting.

This week I remembered the biodynamic theory about harvesting produce on the correct day. If you follow the biodynamic calendar and harvest fruit on a fruit day it is said to improve the flavour and lengthen the storage time of the fruit. Same with vegetables and flowers.

We sometimes sell our purple sprouting broccoli on our stand. This is only on days we are happy to eat the unsold veg – as we only want to sell vegetables that are ultra fresh. On a warm sunny day the broccoli can look a bit limp by the end of the day. Up until now I hadn’t really considered harvesting the broc on a particular day. It happened to be a leaf day so I thought that I’d test out the theory.

The broccoli didn’t sell but still looked crisp and fresh at the end of the long sunny day. Danny steamed it to accompany cottage pie and it tasted fantastic. It’s a root day on Sunday afternoon so I can’t wait to harvest a little more and compare the flavour. Looking back our first PSB fest this year it did taste a bit disappointing. Unfortunately I didn’t note the day but I bet it was not a leaf day.

I read up about biodynamic methods in January. There isn’t a lot of information on the web so I invested in two books. One very beautiful and instructional – Biodynamic Gardening: For Health and Taste by Hilary Wright and one meatier and useful tome Bio-dynamic Gardening  with a lot of information written by John Soper and Barbara Saunders-Davies and highly recommended by the Biodynamic Agricultural Association. Probably a perfect balance. The books absorbed me but the time between January and late April is a long time in my book and there is a lot to learn.

You might have heard that Tesco and M&S never hold wine tastings on a root day. They use Maria Thun’s The Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar to find the perfect days for wine tasting. Wine is at its best on a fruit day. Ericka at Luna Organics gives more information here. She also has an interesting link to the BBC where a top wine taster tests out the theory. Incidentally I highly recommend the Lunar Organics’ calendar. Mine lives beside me on the bed and is unfurled each morning for quick reference.

Throughout the year we will be running tests by harvesting our vegetables on different days and I will report the findings each month.


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13 Comments

  1. There is a feature on biodynamic gardening in Country Living this month. Also, Dr Haushka are doing ‘volunteer days’ at Rush Farm in Sussex – only 50 places on each but if you go you get £100 of their products. See http://www.drhauschka.co.uk/products/promotions/times

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Wendy

      Thanks for that. Good news that biodynamic gardening is begining to take off in the UK! I’d love to do a volunteer day at Rush Farm but it’s just too far away for me ATM.

  2. Mary Henderson

    It’s really interesting to know that there are other methods of gardening. I’ve heard of Biodynamic gardening from old folks and I don’t really believe in them. Not until now that I have read this. What you are doing in testing the theory is good. Keep on posting about them so we can also try the theory.

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