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 runner beans: White Lady

Runner beans, a good allotment staple! Partly because they are so expensive to buy in the supermarkets and you really can’t beat runner beans that are fresh out of the garden.

I’ve managed to save some seeds from the White Lady variety that I grew last year. White Lady have a white seed, a bit different from the speckled pink and black seed that you usually see. White Lady also produce white flowers as opposed to red. Tozer seeds are pioneering the use of White Lady runner beans, so much so, they’ve earned the Perfect for Pollinators Mark as well as the Award of Garden Merit from the RHS.  They have a good reputation for being the better tasting runner bean on the market. White Lady runner beans offer good quality 28 to 30cm long smooth pods.

One thing I do like about this type of bean is that it can withstand dry conditions better than most other runner beans, which will make them perfect for the allotment during a time when access to water isn’t as frequent. The flowers are also edible, which I’m sure will make a delightful garnish on the plate. I’ve even read online that these beans are so pretty, people have even used them in their flower beds.

If you can, but isn’t essential, try and soak your beans in water overnight. The seed will absorb the water and they will swell, given them a bit of a headstart before you plant them into the ground or into pots.  Be sure not to leave them in the water for too long, as in the past I’ve found that the seeds go mouldy and you run the risk of spoiling them altogether.  I’ve sifted some soil and layered this onto the bed that I’ve chosen to plant my runner beans – the seeds will hopefully find it easier to germinate in finer soil.  I’ve also built wigwams for the beans to grow up against and support the plants when they have the weight of the beans hanging off of them.

When the seedlings start to poke through I’ll have to put keep them protected from slugs, black fly and other pests that may want to take advantage of a free meal. That said, I did have some seeds left over so I’ve planted them in pots as an insurance policy, should these get eaten!