The ultimate goal of vegetable gardening is harvesting awesome produce. I’ve always put a lot of thought into selecting the best types and varieties of veggies to grow. I’ve perfected routines for planting, mulching, staking and fertilizing. Yet when it came time to harvest, for years I would grab the handiest garden produce basket and head to the garden. What a mistake!
Choosing the Correct Basket to Harvest Vegetables
I’ve come to realize my choice of garden harvest baskets really does matter. From losing produce as I walked from the garden to the kitchen to having damaged veggies when I arrived, the basket I use can make or break how long produce remains fresh and usable once it reaches my kitchen.
Over the years, I’ve developed a strategy for which type of vegetable harvesting baskets work best. There’s no single “perfect” basket. It all depends upon what, how much, and for what purpose I’m harvesting:
Wooden baskets – There is nothing more traditional for harvesting produce than wooden slat-style baskets. I find the depth of these baskets work best with lighter weight produce like peppers. All too often, I’ve discovered ripe tomatoes at the bottom of the bushel which were bruised or split by the weight of the tomatoes on top.
I like using wooden baskets when harvesting large amounts of veggies for canning or freezing. I line them with newspaper to absorb moisture and make clean-up easier. I do wish bushel baskets were more ergonomic. They are hard to lift and carry, plus they take up more space in my kitchen as they don’t stack.
Restuarant bus tubs – NFS certified food-grade bus tubs are strong, leak-proof and easy to clean. The long, shallow shape is ideal for soft fruits, like tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. They can be stacked at a 90 degree angle and some models come with lids for ease of stacking.
These tubs are durable and they nest for storage. If I’m transporting produce in my car, I need not worry about juice, moisture or dirt soiling my interior. However, bus tubs are difficult to lift and carry. They are also not breathable, thus produce needs to be monitored closely if not used quickly.
Wicker, woven and rope baskets – These make great harvest baskets when gathering small amounts of vegetables for meal preparation. I love the multitude of shapes and sizes which can accommodate a variety of veggies. The handles facilitate carrying the basket from garden to kitchen, plus most of these materials are fairly lightweight.
Unfortunately, these baskets are not easy to clean. I find it necessary to line them with paper towels or newspaper when harvesting dirty or dew-coated veggies. Most styles are aesthetically-pleasing and I prefer them for showing off washed veggies in my kitchen. I like them for onions, tomatoes and other produce which is best stored at room temperature.
Colander basket – This is often my favorite choice when grabbing a garden basket for produce. The BPA-free plastic is food safe and the slitted design allows me to hose off garden veggies outdoors. The lightweight, handled design makes it easy to carry. Plus, the slits are too narrow to trap small veggies, like cherry tomatoes.
On the downside, some styles of colander baskets are large and unyielding. While most brands stack or nest, they tend to be a more expensive harvest-basket choice. Thus, I limit myself to one of these baskets and use my other options when harvesting large amounts of produce.