Preserving and storing your crop

Preserving and storing your crop

If you’re like me, you’ve probably found that you have an abundance of crop, and not enough time to eat it all. Well, if the supermarkets can find a way to preserve the food that you buy from them, I’m sure we can find ways to preserve the food that we grow at the allotment.

Freezing

To blanch or not to blanch, that is the question…

The term blanch is French and means ‘to whiten’, but in cooking terminology this means to soften, or cook using boiling water. To blanch your greens and root vegetables, (including runner beans, french beans, cauliflowers, broccoli, carrots and Brussels sprouts) shred or chop the vegetables to your liking and bring a saucepan of water to the boil, dunk your vegetables into the water for about two minutes, no longer and then cool your vegetables in cold or ice water straight away. The vegetables go straight into a freezer bag and then straight into the freezer.

Last year, I spent a good deal of time blanching my vegetables and sticking them in the freezer and one day I was at the allotment and I asked a colleague, “do you bother to blanch your vegetables” and the response I got was “I used to, but I found it really didn’t make much of a difference”.  So now, I don’t bother.

To unfreeze or cook your lovely preserved vegetables just cook them in boiling salty water, drain and serve.

Drying

When you dig up onions, garlic or potatoes, the chances are you’re going to store them in a plastic bag in the fridge.  If these haven’t been dried properly then you increase your chances of condensation forming and this will lead to your fruit and vegetables rotting. My advice to you would be to leave your potatoes, onions and garlic in the shed for about a week to dry out.

Onions are a well used staple in the kitchen, so the chances are you’ll use these up fairly quickly.  Store your potatoes in a hessian sack, this will keep them dry and reduce moisture from building up in the sack – eventually rotting your potatoes.

You won’t believe the amount of years I’ve been sloppy with the drying out of my potatoes and ended up with a half rotten sack of potatoes.

Sowing French Beans: Top Crop

One thing I haven’t sown before is the French beans. I’ve seen others grow them and I must say, sometimes they make a pleasant change to runner beans. It looked the we’re slowly moving away from any frost, so I’ve to go ahead and plant these straight outside. I’ve also sifted the soil so that the seeds can germinate easily in the soil.

The variety I’ve gone for is called Top Crop, which is bush dwarf variety, which means they don’t require a frame to grow up against.

French beans are originally native to South and Central America and were introduced to France via the Conquistadors in the 16th Century, but it wasn’t until the 19th Century that the French made them a household vegetable. French beans aren’t to be confused with green beans, however botanically there’s little difference between the two.

I’ve sown the beans individually about 5cm deep deep into the ground and around 10cm apart. I’ve planted two rows that are 30cm apart. The theory is, is that each row will support each other. Like most beans, French beans are sensitive to cold conditions, so usually I wouldn’t look to sow these before the end of May – I’m taking a chance planting them out when I am.

Luckily, it looks like they’ve germinated, so all I need to do now is try and keep any slug damage down to a minimum.

French beans have a number of health benefits including:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Reducing the risk of colon cancer
  • Improve regulation of diabetes
  • Boosting your immune system
  • Regulating digest
  • Reducing the risk of birth defects in pregnant women
  • French beans contain riboflavin, a chemical that helps with combating migraine attacks
  • French beans help lower cholesterol
  • They boost energy in the body because they’re a good source of iron and copper

I don’t know why I haven’t grown these before!