Have a cold harvest
Don’t let your surplus crops go to waste. There are plenty of ways of storing them for eating later on. By
Have you given away many of your tomatoes, beans, carrots and cabbages to neighbours and friends but still don’t know what to do with the surplus? Before freezers were invented, peas and beans were dried and then shelled, while onions and cabbages were hung or laid out on trays. Cucumbers and beetroot were pickled in vinegar.
Don’t give those lettuces time to bolt or leave those beans on the stalks too long that they become tough and stringy. New potatoes should be unearthed and eaten within a couple of hours of lifting to enjoy the finest flavour. Many gardeners find that the fruits of their labours are in excess of their needs and end up making a mound of chutney or jam which they simply won’t get through. FREEZING But there are ways of storing a lot of what you harvest. You can blanch and freeze many vegetables and freeze fresh herbs in water in ice-cube trays to add to casseroles and soups throughout the winter months. TRY BLANCHING Blanching is easy. Immerse veg in boiling water, bring to the boil quickly and continue for several minutes, depending on the vegetable. After blanching, plunge them into ice-cold water, drain and freeze. Blanching kills bacteria and destroys enzymes that could taint food. Vegetables such as broad beans and Brussels sprouts must be blanched before freezing, while others including French and runner beans, cauliflower and sweetcorn also benefit from this method. MAKE TOMATO SAUCES Tomatoes aren’t good frozen whole — they are a mushy mess once defrosted — so it’s best to use any you’re not going to eat straightaway in pasta sauces, combined with onions and basil, storing in Tupperware in the freezer. Alternatively, tomato chutneys are popular and if you have any unripe tomatoes left, they can be transformed into amazing green tomato chutney. TREAT SOFT FRUIT WITH CARE Carefully place raspberries or blackberries individually on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and put in the freezer. Once frozen, they can be transferred to plastic bags but won’t end in a pulpy mess, which many do if they are squashed in a bag after picking. LOVE YOUR LETTUCE Lettuces are almost impossible to store for long. You can wash them, dry them off with a kitchen towel and then store in an airtight plastic container rather than a plastic bag in the fridge — the smaller leaves tend to last longer loose in a container rather than squashed in a bag. Cut bigger hearting lettuces almost before they are ready if you’re likely to have gluts, and just pick off the leaves as you need them. STORE ROOT VEG Maincrop root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes are usually lifted in the autumn for storage indoors and placed in layers between sand or peat in a frost-free shed. Other vegetables which will keep in a cool, dry, frost-free place include onions, garlic, marrows, pumpkins, squashes and cabbages. Some root vegetables, such as carrots, swedes, parsnips and turnips, can be left in the ground and lifted as required. Brussels sprouts, winter cabbage and leeks will also stand outside until needed. Mark the crops so you know where they are when the leaves die, then cover the soil with straw and black plastic to stop the soil freezing. APPLE CARE Take care with your apple harvest. Grow a variety that will store well, such as Egremont Russet, Kidd’s Orange Red, Sturmer Pippin, Bramley’s Seedling, Lord Derby and Newton Wonder. These are all late-maturing, which will ripen after October. Pick them immature (from late September to mid-October) and store them until they ripen. The best time to pick the fruit is when it has reached full size, but not yet ripened. Suitable storage places include garages, brick outhouses and cellars. You need a low and even temperature, ideally around 4C (39F) to ensure quality of both apples and pears. Large crops of apples should be individually wrapped in newspaper and packed in boxes. If you don’t have a lot, put them into unsealed plastic bags. Pick pears unripe and leave to ripen. They should not be wrapped, but need to be stood on shelves or trays. Check on autumn fruits occasionally to make sure none have rotted. If so, remove the fruit. With these measures, before you know it you’ ll raid the cellar or shed for more apples and pears, onions and garlic, or nip into the garden for fresh carrots and swedes — and the glut that you thought you’d never get rid of will be diminishing.
CUCUMBER COOLNESS: Different foods need different actions