One potato, two potato, three potato, four…
Its easy to deal with potatoes when you have a big harvest. Just pop them in a paper or hessian sack somewhere rodent proof, dry, frost free and in the dark and they’ll store for months!
Onions and garlic are also dead easy. After harvesting, lay them out in the sun or under cover for a couple of weeks until they’re completely dry and bobs your uncle, fresh onions and garlic all through the winter at double the potency of anything you’d find in a supermarket.
Pumpkins need slightly more attention but also super easy. Leave them on the vine until you can’t make a dent in the skin with your fingernail. Cut them off and leave a good couple of inches of stem, a T shape is good as this slows down any bacteria reaching your beloved prize so they’ll keep for longer. The last task is to leave them somewhere to cure, a bit of heat helps so a greenhouse, windowsill etc. will do. Two weeks one side then turn over and leave for another two weeks. That’s it. Job done. Leave them somewhere cool and frost free until you’re ready to eat.
James Wong has a few ideas of how to enhance flavour and boost the sugar content by up to 400% so I’d recommend a quick read.
What do you do with a glut of tender veg?
On the flip side are what I call tender veg although I also include herbs and soft fruit in this catagory. We’ve all been there, at some point in Summer or early Autum the annual gluts arrive and it’s a mad dash to crop everything before your courgette’s turn to marrows and your beans to macrame string.
I actually think it’s a nice problem to have as well a time of much amusement! I relish dishing out bags of super fresh courgette’s and cucumbers for my friends and family, work colleagues, people behind the bar at my local pub and generally anyone that wants them!! I once took a baby snail on a train ride to the other side of London tucked up in a lettuce for a friend, I hope he liked his new home as I didn’t bring him back with me!
Frozen in time
When fresh harvests have come to a halt though and winter has crept through the door its nice to be able to open the cupboard or freezer door and grab something home grown.
I’ve been experimenting with different preserving methods and one of the simplest has been freezing.
One tip is to freeze produce into small batches and measurements that are required for your favourite recipes. For example I know that a 400g tin of tomatoes is required for my favourite potato bravas recipe so I therefore freeze sauces of this quantity.
Freezing is super easy and after washing and chopping it’s important to blanch. After harvesting the enzymes within the crop continue to break down the nutrients, turn sugar to starch and generally degrade flavour. Blanching greatly reduces this process.
My blanching times:
Beans, runner and french – 2 minutes
Broad beans – 3 minutes
Carrots – 4 minutes
Leeks – 2 minutes
Parsnips – 2 minutes
Sweetcorn – 4 minutes
Once blanched stop the cooking process immediately by plunging into icy water, dry off, bag up and transfer to the freezer. Don’t forget to label and date which I sometimes forget to do!
Other things to freeze
Tomatoes – freeze whole (no blanching required)
Rhubard – freeze in chunks (no blanching required)
Herbs – chop up and fill ice cube trays and top up with water. I freeze homemade pesto this way too.
Soft fruit – no need for blanching. I freeze on a flat surface and once solidly frozen bag up. This means you don’t need to hack off chunks of soft fruit as they should stay separated.
Chillies – Jamie Oliver once recommended chopping up your chillies, depositing into a freezer container. Once you have a block of frozen chillies just grate what you need when you need it. Simple advice too good to ignore so this is what I do. The man’s a genius!