Preserve produce
Once you've harvested your produce, you want it to last so that you can enjoy it for as long as possible. This guide shows you how you can do this.
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Once you've harvested your produce, you want it to last so that you can enjoy it for as long a time as possible. This guide shows you how to preserve and store your produce.

  • As mentioned above, we can often find ourselves overwhelmed by the quantity of produce we gather. After all our efforts, it would be a shame to have to throw away perfectly good food because we have no immediate need for it.
  • Pickles, chutneys and jams make for a thoughtful and inexpensive gift idea. Many family members of mine have been given jars of piccalilli as well as chutneys to make good a surplus of courgettes and green tomatoes.
  • Who doesn’t enjoy a harvest and picking what you have sown and tended to over a period of months? It’s the culmination of the work carried out and, despite the numerous benefits from all the tasks involved beforehand, this is where we experience a tangible sense of reward. We can also enjoy sharing with others what we have achieved in the garden.
  • Simple preserving techniques make a handy introduction to teaching cookery skills, as basic methods of pickling are easy to grasp and carry out.
  • Preserving food for later can teach patience and moderation to children at an early age.
  • Following on from this we look at healthy eating and new ways of enjoying and trying foods we may have not wanted to sample previously. We explore what effects drying has on certain fruits and how the taste changes in the process. This can encourage children to be more enthusiastic about certain foods they were previously wary of.
  • As cooking involves maths and measuring skills so does preserving. Giving your children ownership of weighing pickle ingredients and letting them practice cutting with knives when supervised helps to make them feel involved in the process as they learn about it.

Suitable harvests for storing are:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Onions

Storing ensures that your harvest can be edible for months after it is first picked. It is a simple method of keeping food fresh for which you need some boxes or crates and brown paper. To prepare your produce, cut the ends of vegetables such as beetroot and carrots, clean off any dirt and soil and leave in the sun for a while to prevent mould forming. Wrap up your produce with the paper and line the bottom of your container. With potatoes, make sure no sunlight reaches them as it will cause green inedible growth to appear.

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Suitable harvests for freezing are:

  • Raspberries
  • Gooseberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Blueberries
  • Peas

At Thrive freezing is often used as a way of making sure that much of the harvest gathered in summer can be used throughout the year. This way client gardeners can still practice cookery skills throughout the seasons and even cater for events with soups and crumbles using a wide choice of ingredients. Put fruit and vegetables in airtight freezer bags or containers before freezing. Some fruits or vegetables will benefit from being blanched before the freezing process to prevent them suffering from ‘freezer burn’. To do this, simply place the fruit or vegetables in a pot of boiling water for a third of their usual cooking time, drain, allow to dry and towel off before packing them into the freezer.

Suitable harvests for drying are:

  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes

Take your produce and wash it before patting dry with a towel. Slice it thinly, making sure to remove core and seeds where necessary. Place the slices on a baking tray and cover with baking parchment. You can then either leave this outside to naturally dry out in the sunshine or place in the oven on a low setting for several hours. Look for shrinking and a crisping up of the produce to occur and then once complete, store in airtight containers.

Suitable harvests for pickling are:

  • Beetroot
  • Shallots
  • Cucumbers
  • Cauliflower

Pickling can take a little longer than other preserving methods but it will ensure that the crisp vegetables you put in at the beginning remain so at the end. There are varying degrees of complexity to the process from simply washing and preparing your vegetables to adding herbs and spices to bulk up the flavour.

There are also a range of treatments for vegetables before the pickling itself begins. Onions and shallots will benefit from being placed in boiling water for around 20 minutes to make peeling them easier and then placed in salt overnight in the fridge before placing in vinegar. Carrots and beetroot can either be lightly roasted or par boiled before pickling takes place.

Pickling is achieved by placing your produce into sterilised jars with a vinegar solution (white wine vinegar works well). Jars can be sterilised by washing them thoroughly and placing them in a pre-heated oven at a temperature of 150c for 20 minutes.

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