The bountiful part of the year is upon us now.
We see this at the Community Fridge, of course. We have had the tomato glut, the courgette glut and we are anticipating the potato and apple gluts coming soon.
All gardeners steel themselves for this time of year, but even if you are not a gardener, you will probably notice an increase in available veg in the shop – and if you’re lucky, you will find them in the reduced section.
What we need to turn our minds to now is making the most of this bounty. That needn’t mean you eating courgettes every day for a week, driving yourself mad trying to find new and interesting things to make (and possibly hide them in). No, now you need to spend a little time storing and preserving your finds so that you can continue to enjoy them for the rest of the year.
Talking of courgettes, we got some whoppers this year, so took a bit of time grating them and putting them into portions for the freezer (250g for our old favourite, Courgette Risotto and 350g for our new favourite, Courgette and Orange Cake). They will be a little watery when they thaw, but we will just squeeze out the excess liquid with our hands before using them.
Back to storage and let’s start with potatoes. They are great to have to hand and, stored properly, will keep for six months.
Stop to think for a moment about where your potatoes came from – in the ground. Cool and dark. That’s where they do best. Once you have dug them up (or taken them home) rub any soil off them, allow them to dry – out in the sunshine if possible – then put them in something breathable like a hessian bag and keep them somewhere cool. A shed or dark cupboard is ideal. Importantly, don’t wash them! Pouring liquid on them allows pests and diseases to get in.
Other keepers are onions, garlic and apples. They like a bit of air around them so the ideal storage for them is hanging up in the shed or garage. Yes, once again, the old ways are often the best! Failing that, you can use an old pair of tights. Put each fruit, or veg in the leg, twist the tights to keep each one separate form its neighbour to avoid bruising, then hang them up. Sure, it may look strange to visitors, but it will work!
You may not have the room, or inclination, to store like this, so perhaps pickling or freezing is a better option for you.
Pickling vegetables could not be easier. Generally speaking, cut and blanche them in cold water, then pop them into a fresh, clean jar, cover with vinegar and close the lid. Easy-peasy. You can add flavourings if you like.
The beauty of preserving vegetables this way is that they are then so easy to use. They have effectively already been cooked, so you can simply open your jar, wash off the vinegar and add your vegetables to your chosen dish.
Freezing is equally straightforward. Again, it is good to blanch your fruit or veg, then pat them dry and put them into the freezer. Remember to label your bag or tub. Now you can literally enjoy the fruits of your labour all year round.
If you follow us on social media you will know that we are making the most of this season in our Gleaning project. It’s been blueberries and blackberries so far, and you’d be amazed how much we have been able to pick each time we hit the field.
Many were passed on to other projects to use, but some are safely tucked up in the freezer, just waiting for their moment to come.