One of the best ways to keep an abundance of fresh food on the table throughout the growing season is by practicing “Cut and Come Again” harvesting, but what is it and how do you do it?
What Is “Cut and Come Again Harvesting”?
Cut and come harvesting again is a vegetable harvesting technique that involves several harvests from the same plant by cutting away the mature leaves to let young leaves continue to grow or allow new growth to form and mature. This harvesting method can supply a continuous supply of fresh food from many vegetables throughout the growing season without replanting.
What Are The Benefits of “Cut and Come Again Harvesting?
There are a few benefits to harvesting vegetables with the “cut and come again” technique that make it worth doing. Here are 5 that quickly come to mind.
1. Continuous Supply of Fresh Vegetables
The most obvious benefit is having fresh vegetables on the table at any time throughout the growing season. Depending on the vegetable and the number of plants you’re harvesting from you can get fresh food from your garden ranging from daily to weekly.
2. More Productive Annual Harvest
By continually harvesting from the same plants you can get a more abundant annual harvest. The reason is if you cut the entire plant for one use, you then have to either plant again from seed or transplant a seedling into the garden to start the growing process over again.
An established mature plant continues to grow and produce quicker than a seedling can grow to maturity for harvesting. The mature plants will produce more food in the amount of time the next plant grows resulting in more food on the table.
3. Helps Slow Down Bolting
By keeping the mature parts of the plant cut away some plants have less tendency to bolt (go to seed) in hot weather. This will enable the plant to produce the food you want to eat rather than the bitter tasting leaves you tend to get when the plant bolts.
4. Saves Time
If you completely harvest a garden bed you then have to prepare the bed for the next planting, sow the seeds, or transplant seedlings, spend time caring for the tender plants and wait for them to mature.
Cut and come again harvesting keeps giving you food without all the extra work. Just go to the garden and get what you need when you need it.
5. Saves Money
Seeds and seedlings cost money (or cost you time, saving the seeds), and the fewer seeds you have to sow to get the same amount of food will save you money. So “cut and come again” saves you money as you will be doing less seed sowing and planting.
Are There Any Problems With “Cut and Come Again Harvesting?
The number one problem with cut and come again harvesting is diminishing quality with each harvest. Usually, this is a result of cutting all the leaves from the plant and leaving the base to completely regrow. This is a common practice of market gardeners harvesting leafy greens.
When carefully harvesting the outer more mature leaves from a rosette-forming plant the poor quality is reduced after each cutting. This technique does take more time but will result in better taste for a longer time.
What Vegetables Can You Cut and Come Again Harvest?
|Common Cut and Come Again Crops||How and When To Harvest|
|Romaine and Loose Leaf Lettuce||3 regrowths from the crown|
|Bib Lettuce||Continual harvest mature leaves all season until bolting|
|Chard||Continual harvest all season|
|Broccoli||As often as side shoot broccoli heads form|
|Kale||Continual harvest mature leaves all season until bolting|
|Amaranth||Take leaves as needed throughout the growing season|
|Basil||Cut leaves above stem nodes as needed|
|Beet Greens||Harvest just the outer leaves before too large.|
|Purslane||As much as you need as often as you need|
|Spinach||Harvest mature leaves until the plant bolts|
|Celery||Harvest outer stalks as needed or cut to the crown and regrow|
|Green Onions||Cut green tops 1 inch from the bulb as needed all growing season|
|Arugula||Harvest leaves as needed throughout the growing season|
|Bok Choy||Harvest outer leaves or cut the whole plant and grow back 3 times|
|Collard Greens||Harvest outer mature leaves as needed throughout the season|
This is not nearly an exhaustive list as almost all leafy green vegetables can be harvested in this way. Plants like mustard greens, turnip greens, swiss chard and many herbs are also great for harvesting a few leaves at a time for fresh salads and stir fries.
How Do You “Cut and Come Again” Harvest
This will depend on the vegetable you are harvesting from but there are some common techniques for a continuous harvest of the most popular cut and come again vegetables.
Method 1. Harvest Mature Leaves
Many plants like leafy greens and especially plants that grow in a rosette pattern are great candidates for harvesting in this way. Simply remove the outer or more mature leaves as needed. Some plants lose the desired texture if they get too big so try not to wait too long to harvest to get the best, most tender food.
Method 2. Regrow From Crown
Some plants regrow great from the crown, meaning you can cut the entire plant above the base and let it regrow. Lettuce, celery, onions, and a variety of greens are great for this.
Method 3. Selective Pruning
Plants such as broccoli can be harvested a few times by first harvesting the main head and for days and weeks after harvest the smaller broccoli heads that form on the side shoots.
When Do You Stop “Cut and Come Again” Harvesting?
Nothing good lasts forever and in the case of cut and come again this holds true. There is a time when you have to stop harvesting from most of your plants, here’s how you will know when that time is.
When It Stops Tasting Good
At some point many of the plants you are “cut and come again” harvesting will take on a bitter or unpleasant taste. I find this comes after about 3 complete cuttings and grow back of most leafy greens. Selective harvesting of portions of the plant can put this off for a while longer usually.
When The Plant Bolts
This coincides usually with the off-putting taste that eventually occurs. Hot weather during the summer months, stress (usually induced by heat or drought), and plant maturity will cause the plant to go to seed and prepare to die. Leaves of the plant generally take on a bitter taste at this time.
When It Stops Growing Productively
After a few cuttings the plant doesn’t recover as quickly and at some point, it becomes more productive to remove the plant and replant for a succession crop.
Is “Cut and Come Again” Harvesting Worth It?
YES! For me anyway. I guess the answer is “it depends”. If you are simply eating from your garden and trying to save money and time and also get as much as you can on the table, then “cut and come again” harvesting is a great way to grow.
If you are a market gardener looking to harvest bulk amounts of food you may not have the time to carefully harvest from each individual plant in this way. In this case, it might be more efficient to pick and replant.
Give it a try! You might just find you enjoy the abundance on your table all growing season long.