On Your Plot – Hoarding

It’s hard to remain excited when you’ve had courgette at every meal for a week, and marvellous though raspberries are there is a limit to just how many you can eat at once. Take a bit of time to store your harvest and you can be enjoying home grown right through the winter.

Jobs for August:-
-Water regularly – try to water either in the evening or early mornings.
-If you are growing main crop potatoes, watch out for signs of blight. Brown patches on the tops and edges of leaves are usually a first sign.
-Pinch out the tops of runner bean stems that are outgrowing their supports.
-Keep harvesting those courgettes!
-Sow turnips and oriental salad plants such as Pak Choi and Chinese Cabbage
-Strawberry runners that were potted up in June to produce new plants can be planted out now.

If all has gone to plan (that’s a big if!) then August should be a very satisfying month on your plot, with your hard work being repaid by ample harvests of a good range of fruit and veg.

The reality tends to be that the excitement of seeing your crops grow and ripen is initially followed by much enjoyment of the first fruits of your labour which can soon be replaced by a panic stricken ‘What the heck do I do with all these’! Certain crops (courgettes and tomatoes spring to mind) can almost guarantee this sequence of events!

Sharing with friends and neighbours is great but very often they will have a glut of exactly the same thing at just the same time. What is called for are some simple ideas for storing and preserving your produce. It may be a long time before you are harvesting fresh peas or raspberries again but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be enjoying your home grown produce throughout the winter – it just takes a little planning and now is the time to do it.
Onions (and garlic) that have been lifted and left to dry can be plaited and hung in a cool, dry place. Net bags, or tights, also work if you don’t fancy plaiting. Potatoes can be stored in boxes or paper sacks in a dark, dry building but you should check them regularly, removing any that show signs of rotting. A good size freezer is a real boon for making the most of your produce.
Blanching and then freezing works for loads of vegetables. Key to success is to cool quickly after blanching so have a bowl of cold water at the ready and don’t forget to label what you are freezing!

Another option, and one that can work well for all those tomatoes, is to find a good recipe that you can cook, freeze and use later (how about a wonderful pasta sauce with your own tomatoes and home grown basil?). Even ‘difficult to freeze’ veg such as courgettes can either be incorporated into a sauce, or blanched, frozen and then added to a stew at a later date.
Cooking and freezing can work well for fruit too – apple or rhubarb are good stewed and frozen all ready for use in a crumble or pie. If you have a truly wonderful fruit crop then why not arm yourself with a good recipe book and get started on some jam making? It’ll be delicious on your toast in the morning, and what better gift than a pot of homemade raspberry jam?

It’s amazing how many books there are that tell you how to grow your fruit and veg, but how little information there is on just how to store it all! One wonderful little book, that deals with just this question is ‘How to store your garden produce’ by Piers Warren. It’s packed with information about how to store just about anything and a great addition to any gardeners library.

Happy harvesting!