So E-Cus, now that I have read your articles, done some of my own work and created the most kick ass veggie patch in my street, what am I meant to do with all the produce?- I know you are wondering this because I got asked it in real life (thanks, Naomi). With a patch filled with seasonal produce you would like to enjoy all year round rather than just the four weeks of a year that you are harvesting, knowing how to make the most of it whilst fitting around your busy schedule is vital! Obviously you could just give them away to friends and family (which is still a very nice idea and greatly appreciated by everyone) but as the person who has put in the blood, sweat and tears you want to be able to experience the fruits (lol pun) of your labour, too. I hit social media and asked which fruit and vegetables do you often end up with too much of and not know what to do with and I was flooded with responses. I’m going to tackle the ones that were brought up and hope that as a lovely little gardeny community, we can continue to share the love via comments below or comments on our Facebook page for other fruits or veggies. Thanks to Debby, Naomi, Jane, Ali, Ainsley, Brandon, Carole, Sarah, Lizzie, Caroline, Sammy, Lily and Kathleen for your input on this one! Hope it helps.
Lemons have many uses so before you contemplate storing them the best thing to do is to identify what you are likely to use the lemons for in the future. I love lemon juice in cooking and it is probably my key concern so I will juice my lemons and freeze the juice. If you like Jamie Oliver you will know that he often demands a “squirt” of lemon juice from a fresh lemon, one way to achieve this without having to go and purchase a fresh lemon every time is to freeze the juice into a small ice cube tray. It’s easy to drop a cube of pure lemon juice into a hot pan and you are less likely to squirt yourself in the eye (which I do constantly). You can also zest your lemons and include that in your ice cube tray of lemony deliciousness. You can freeze the lemons whole, they just need to be stored in a freezer bag and this will make the lemon quite mushy once defrosted which will still make it fine for cooking or baking. If you are looking more towards storing them to slip into a cheeky beer or something similar then slice them into your desired wedge size before freezing. The added bonus here is that they can cool down your drink while they add that citrusy tang. The only other option I have used is making mass amounts of lemon curd and storing it in my cupboard. Properly stored lemon curd can last up to 3 months before opening and 1-2 weeks once opened so you could store it in small or large jars depending on your family size or the likelihood of you using it as a spread or in baking. I can’t tell you how good lemon meringue pie and lemon tarts are when you have made the curd with your own fresh lemons.
Firstly, I am an advocate for home made pumpkin soup. In the event that I ever end up with more pumpkin than I can eat, I make a huge vat of pumpkin soup and fill my freezer with it in serving sizes. A soup like this will easily survive 6 months in your freezer. Future-you will thank past-you for putting the effort into making the soup and freezing it when your schedule gets busy and you are struggling to plan dinners that contain vegetables. If you are just never going to make soup then the best option is to cut the pumpkin up into chunks, remove the seeds and skin and freeze it in a freezer bag. You can do this with raw pumpkin, or you could roast the chunks before freezing. Another option is to cook and puree the pumpkin before freezing it. The only time I have done this personally is when I was freezing the puree into big ice cube trays to give as a present for my friend who had a baby – delicious, healthy, homegrown/made baby food that is on and and ready to go is quite the gift for a new mum.
My pumpkin soup recipe goes as such, this example is using a whole crown pumpkin just to give you the idea of proportions:
- Cut a whole pumpkin into chunks making sure all the seeds are removed and roast them in the oven with some olive oil, rosemary, thyme, whatever tickles you.
- Cool the pumpkin before peeling the skin off each piece. In a pot sweat off two brown onions with crushed garlic (I use almost a whole head of crushed garlic in mine because I love it but use your judgement) in some olive oil.
- Then add a litre of vegetable stock, the pumpkin, a 400ml can of coconut milk and various herbs and spices depending on your taste. I usually put that on a low heat, mash the pumpkin through with a potato masher just on the stove and keep stirring casually stirring up I’m happy with the consistency and then chuck it in my freezer containers.
Don’t forget to taste the soup before you put it in the containers as pumpkin soup can famously be difficult to get flavour into. Also keep the seeds! Google how to regrow pumpkins from pumpkin seed or google how you can make them into a tasty snack. Pumpkin seeds toasted in a pan with a few glugs of soy sauce are delicious.
Spinach and silver beet are famous for growing bumper crops and its almost impossible to keep eating your way through them at the time you are producing, especially if you planted multiple plants. The best way to keep them is to blanche them and freeze them, I offer no advice around this as I have not successfully done it myself and it seems rather tricky. I’ll only speak to what I know. Cook them into things you might use further down the line. Vegetable lasagna springs to mind (you could also incorporate pumpkin into this) and you could keep that in the freezer for three months easily if contained correctly. The 30% of my heart which is devoted to my fake greek heritage implores you to make spanakopita parcels with your silver beet and spinach which make an easy snack or nibble if you are having a party. Spanakopita is a greek pie made traditionally with filo pastry and filled with spinach and feta although I am certain you would get the same results from silver beet. Made into little pasty shaped parcels would be easy to freeze and would just need a reheat in the oven before serving again. Kale, which also fits into the leafy green family, can actually be frozen raw. Just wash the leaves, make sure they are totally dry (otherwise they will clump and freeze together) then pop them into a freezer bag. You can chuck these leaves straight into your smoothies and it will make your smoothie cold! All of your leafy greens can also be cooked down and pureed if you have use for a green puree in your life.
Similar to lemons, it depends on your purpose with these guys. If you are looking to use them in a sauce or cooked dish then you can put your tomatoes into your freezer in freezer bags. You can freeze them sliced, chopped or pureed as well as whole and you can freeze them raw or cooked. They can be stored with or without their skin and will last eight months in your freezer pretty happily. Otherwise you could make and freeze tomato soup or my favourite thing to do is make a pasta sauce with them and freeze them with spaghetti pasta as an alternative to canned spaghetti. You can freeze the sauce for up to six months and with the spaghetti noodles present, it would depend on what type of noodle and how long you had cooked them for but I think you could safely use your judgement on this one. Defrosted tomatoes can get mushy so unless you are freezing cherry tomatoes, I can’t imagine any salads will eventuate out of this side of your crop so best to make the most of that option when they are fresh. Furthermore, don’t forget what type of tomato you planted in the first place, big beef tomatoes are designed for soups and sauces and that’s the best use for them 100% of the time.
Some of my favourite things to grow but can get very out of control in your garden very quickly. There are so many things you can use them for in cooking so before you do anything I would look ahead at some recipes you want to try soon or could be interested in later on. If you are trying to kill three birds with one stone, then cook them into your veggie lasagne before you freeze that for a rainy day. The biggest tip I have is to slice them up into little happy circles or dice them if you can foresee needing them like that for a future recipe, lay them on trays, pop them in the freezer for a couple of days and then stick them into a freezer bag, The tray freezing technique will hopefully stop them from sticking together too much in the freezer. This technique applies to marrows as well as courgettes, although if you are doing this throughout your harvesting season then you should be experiencing less marrows on the whole. Regardless, use these in your recipes or chuck them in a hot pan with some salt and olive oil and you can add that to any family dinner. Easy peasy.
Well folks, I’m barely scratching the surface of this challenging topic! I love it when you send your gardening dilemmas my way so please keep them coming. Next time I will deal with the way to make the most out of the sometimes overwhelmingly massive drop of fruit your fruit trees can produce (obviously minus lemons which I included here) and continue to tackle the beast that is milking your herb crop for all its worth whilst keeping it going all year round.
Chur, E Cus xx