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

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS - Hannah Stephenson

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

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