Pick, Pluck, Pull

by Carol Michel

While pulling out some radishes one late spring day, it occurred to me that new gardeners—really all gardeners—might find it useful to understand the language of harvesting. Yes, now we are mostly seeding, transplanting and dreaming but before you know it, it will be time to pick, pluck and pull our bounty.

We’ll begin our study of harvesting language with pull. I pulled out my radishes, meaning I pulled them out of the ground, and once pulled, they were no longer growing, One pull, one radish. Done. This is true for most root crops. We pull out carrots, beets and turnips—to name a few common root crops—and leave no plant behind.

However, we do not pull potatoes. To harvest potatoes, you need to dig them out of the ground. So, add dig to your list of harvest words. Now that you’ve mastered pull and dig, we’ll go on to pick and pluck.

We pick tomatoes, beans and peas, meaning we twist or cut them away from the plant, leaving the plant intact so it can continue to grow and produce more of what we picked.

This is closely related to pluck, as you can imagine, and I won’t cringe if you pluck a cherry tomato or two while out in your garden, but I’d prefer you pick them and pluck a few leaves off your spinach, kale and lettuce plants. That’s right, I reserve pluck for the removal of edible leaves or other non-fruit parts of a plant. You pluck a bit of baby kale for a salad in May. But if you decide to pick a bit of kale, no one will mind.

What about snip? Do we sometimes snip instead of pluck? Absolutely. We snip bits of herbs, as in we snip a few leaves off the basil to add to a lovely salad we made by plucking some lettuce, picking a few tomatoes, and pulling a few radishes. The difference is snipping usually involves using little clippers or scissors so we don’t tear up the plant with plucking.

Not to get too technical, but pluck versus pick sometimes depends on your harvesting mood. The more excited you are, the more you tend to pluck instead of pick. I might inadvertently pluck a cherry tomato from its vine when I am excited to see the first one ready to harvest, but when there are loads and loads of them all ripe and ready to eat, I pick them.

Which leads us right back to harvest. When do we harvest? We often harvest when we are taking the last of a crop, such as sweet corn, and know there will be no more. It’s a term for much later in the garden season when we are picking, plucking, pulling, and digging those vegetables for the last time. Let us harvest our potatoes by digging them out. Let us harvest our sweet corn by pulling the ears.

Wait, what? We pulled the ears of corn instead of picking them. Isn’t pulling just for root crops? Well, yes, pulling is primarily for root crops with the exception of corn which can be either picked or pulled. “Pulled” because the action of picking corn involves pulling down on the ear of corn and then twisting it off.

So. there you have it. The language of the harvest explained. Dig, pull, pick, pluck, snip. Go forth now, seed your crops, transplant them, watch them grow, then freely gather your harvest ... wait, did I just add another harvest word? Gather. I think I did. We gather when we pick, pluck, pull, dig, snip and otherwise harvest a big variety of fruits and vegetables at one time.

So now there you have it. Go forth and freely pick, pluck, pull, dig, snip, harvest and gather your bounty, with a smile on your face because you are growing your own vegetables, and you know how to properly describe what it is you are doing out there in your garden. You are reaping what you sowed.

Wait, reaping? Is there no end to this language of the harvest?

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Carol Michel is an author, blogger, podcaster and gardener. Check out her books and other information at caroljmichel.com.

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