What to do with your crops

Garden News (UK) - - Garden Of The Week -

We have more stor­age meth­ods avail­able to us than ever. Freez­ing is ever-pop­u­lar, while jam, jelly and chut­ney-mak­ing are en­joy­ing a re­vival. Old­fash­ioned bot­tling, es­pe­cially the wa­ter-bath method (heat­ing sealed, bot­tled pro­duce to cre­ate an air­tight vac­uum) is also be­com­ing pop­u­lar, and there has been an ex­plo­sion in elec­tric food de­hy­dra­tor sales, for dry­ing ev­ery­thing from toma­toes and ap­ples to pineap­ple and banana! Dry­ing doesn’t have to be so elab­o­rate; a very low oven, (some­times with the door left open) can ad­e­quately des­ic­cate many things. Of­ten sim­plic­ity reigns supreme – some­times, as with pota­toes, a dark bag in a cool place is all that’s needed; just re­mem­ber that heat, damp and light are the en­emy of the har­vest.

Some folk swear by old­fash­ioned meth­ods, such as keep­ing root veg­eta­bles in trays of damp sand or ‘clamps’ (of­ten used for pota­toes). Clamps are neat piles of roots, brushed of loose soil and lain on a bed of straw. They’re then packed with more straw and topped with a layer of earth. Clever Vic­to­ri­ans even gave clamps their own drain­pipe ‘chim­ney’!

Blanch­ing (flash-cook­ing veg­eta­bles to part-cook them) seems like a lot of trou­ble to go to be­fore freez­ing pro­duce, but it’s worth do­ing. Brief boil­ing stops the en­zymes act­ing, ‘freez­ing’ veg in time as well as cold. Each type of veg­etable needs dif­fer­ent blanch­ing times, be­fore be­ing plunged into iced wa­ter to stop the process. Aubergines need four min­utes, all beans need two to three min­utes and car­rots be­tween three and five min­utes. Gluts are only a prob­lem if you don’t have time to deal with them. Oth­er­wise, there’s a so­lu­tion for most ex­cess pro­duce, from pick­led cu­cum­bers to plum ice cream. It’s also a great time to ex­per­i­ment – if a dish goes wrong it doesn’t mat­ter! If all else fails, ‘chut­nify’. Be brave – pick a ba­sic chut­ney recipe and sub­sti­tute the veg you have a glut of for what­ever veg you don’t have; they’re usu­ally very for­giv­ing!

All veg can be jarred up for dark, win­ter days!

Use an ap­ple rack to keep fruit dry and rot-free

Dry stor­age in trays of sand is a time­honoured method

Dry your herbs or pop them in ice cubes

Pick­led veg and tomato sauces will last and last

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