Summer heat can wreak havoc in a vegetable garden. Without constant irrigation, vegetables wilt and it may seem that all of your hard work will be lost. If you end up staring at a lawn of wilted vegetables, work immediately to minimize the damage and revive what you could. Those that are past the stage of revival remain edible and might be worth harvesting.
Salad greens would be the first plants to go when the heat hits. Even with ample moisture, hot weather sparks spring greens to sprout their seed stalks, leaving the edible part bitter. But should you forgot to water your lawn, or accidentally left freshly picked greens in the sun, they probably don’t appear very appealing to consume. You won’t notice a big change in the flavor if they’re simply limp out of heat, but if they’re discolored in any way, it is best to discard them.
The dense flesh of root vegetables helps them to withstand damage from the heat. The green tops of carrots (Daucus carota), beets (Beta vulgaris), turnips (Brassica rapa), or any other edible tuber, can be completely brown and lifeless while the edible part remains enjoyable to eat. In reality, when growing potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), it is customary to allow the top part of the plant shrivel and die before selecting — this indicates the tubers are fully mature. There’s no damage from eating root vegetables that were damaged by heat, as long as the flesh hasn’t begun to decompose.
From a botanical perspective, many common vegetables are believed fruits — strawberries (Solanum lycopersicum), cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), peppers (Capsicum annuum) and eggplant (Solanum melongena), to name a couple. These plants sacrifice their leaves to the heat long before the edible part becomes too wilted to eat. They might appear a bit shriveled and lose their crispness, but they’re still fine to consume if they are not truly rotten — an obvious change from wilting accompanied with a pungent scent.
Reducing Heat Damage
Slight wilting of the leaves of vegetables is a biological reaction to extreme heat, sometimes happening even when the soil is moist. That is nothing to be concerned about and the plants will shake up again as soon as the sun goes down. When the leaves are wilting since the dirt is dry, give it a deep soaking immediately. Water has a inclination to roll from bone dry dirt, therefore irrigate slowly over a long period to be sure the root zone is totally saturated. Spreading a mulch of straw or grass clippings around vegetables helps to preserve soil moisture. In general, it is best to plant vegetables where they get shade following mid-afternoon in the summertime, in addition to protection from hot, dry winds.