What to do with your crops
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