Be inspired and make a friend of your freezer!
You have sowed your seeds, grown your plants and now will be busy harvesting. Some veggies it is just a matter of going to dig up or cut enough for a meal or two when you need them while the rest grow on or continue to ripen. Enjoy them at their best fresh but when lots are ready at the same time your freezer becomes your best friend.
It is easy to tell when tomatoes are ripe – they turn red to show they are ripe. Unless they are a yellow, black, orange or white type in which case you are looking for fruit that come away from the plant easily when you flex the fruit on its stalk – if they want to stay put then they are not quite ready. Eat lots fresh but as the season progresses you may wish to store some for use over the winter & spring. You can freeze whole fruits or puree: wash them, plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds then peel off the skins. Pack into bags and freeze whole or put through a blender. After blending cook for about 30 minutes adding herbs or garlic if you want to, allowing some liquid to evaporate and the puree to thicken, cool quickly, pack and freeze. For a chopped tom style sauce just blend them briefly, stopping before they are a puree
The easy way to tell if sweetcorn is ready is to expose the kernels: when the juice from a kernel is ‘milky’ it is ripe. Clear juice means it isn’t ripe enough. As you crop will ripen close together you can freeze some of the cobs – remove the husks and silks, blanche in boiling water for 5 minutes then plunge into iced water to cool, drain, dry, pack and freeze. These can be cooked from frozen in boiling water for 10-15 minutes.
A plentiful harvest of beans is one of the many joys of gardening. Now I will be honest here, I rarely blanch runner beans simply because we are happy not doing it but blanching does help keep them in tip top condition for longer. So for runner beans slice them up as normal, blanch for 2 minutes, plunge into iced water, drain, pack and freeze. Do the same for French beans. Broad beans must be shelled first then blanched for 3 minutes. For all beans simply cook from frozen.
And now courgettes – you can be looking at a prodigious harvest from a small number of plants. Just think every frozen bag is saving you money over the months ahead and they are a fabulous meal filler. You can slice them into thick slices or sticks, blanch, cool in cold water, drain, dry & freeze or, if you want to hide the fact you are feeding your family courgette, you can use our zap and freeze method. Rough chop and put them in a food processor or blender and zap them until they are roughly shredded (not down to a puree), pack into convenient size amounts (we use small bags which fit about 225g) and freeze. These are then easy to use in curries, stews, soups & casseroles: simply pop in the frozen block and let it thaw and cook.
Onions can store really well: wait until the tops bend over naturally ease them from the ground and let them dry for 10 days or so (we put ours in the porch to do this), when the skins are paper dry then store in a cool frost free place (hang them in bunches or plaits or spread out) checking them regularly and cut off any new roots that may grow in late winter. If that sounds a bit tricky then freeze them for handy chopped or sliced onions – blanche 1 minute for chopped, 2 minutes for slices – thaw or use from frozen.
I haven’t written about pickles and chutneys, there are lots of wonderful recipes for these, simply because freezing allows you to enjoy veg portions with your meals for many months – saving you money every time you tuck in.