Hello fellow gardeners, have you all built your larder yet, cleaned out your freezer, prepared your fish boxes and bought or recycled your hession sacks? You might think “What on earth is he talking about?” Well, I am talking about the vegetables and fruits that you will be hopefully harvesting from now on. Don’t say you have not been warned!
From now on the edible garden should be in full production, with a huge variety of vegetables and fruits to be harvested. You will not be able to eat it all, and if you are not tempted to sell your produce, you will need to think of ways to keep it. And the freezer is not always the best option.
When it comes to preserving your vegetables and fruit and keeping the nutritional value, choosing the right method is paramount.
Traditional methods of preserving, like storing, drying and fermenting, have been augmented by bottling and latest by freezing. Any method of preserving has to fight and control the four enemies: bacteria, fungi, enzymes and yeasts. All methods of preserving deal with your enemies in different ways: heat treatment by pasteurisation; fermenting by producing acidity; freezing by making bacteria ineffective.
Choose the right method
- Root vegetables store well at around 7 Celsius.
- Herbs are best dried. Without water harmful bacteria cannot grow. Drying in Ireland is best done either in the oven or in a dehydrator.
- Sterilising kills bacteria through heat.
- Freezing stops bacteria and enzymes to breed and multiply.
- Lactic acid fermentation, a very old and traditional method uses bacteria to create a sour, acidic environment, which kills harmful bacteria.
- The “Hot Fill-in” is an easy and energy saving method and is made possible with the invention of the Twist-off jars. It is a form of short-term pasteurisation.
- To whet your appetite for preserving here are two easy recipes, one for preserving elderflowers or meadowsweet, the other for a delicious parsley-lovage pesto. Both recipes are courtesy of my wife, Gaby.
Elderflower Lemonade (Fion Lonnrach)
Many countries have their specific word for sparkling wine. Germans call it Sekt, Italians Prosecco, Spaniards Cava and the French call it Champagne. And the new guy on the block is called Fion Lonnrach. I herewith claim to be the creator of the Irish version of sparkling wine…
- 3 ½ litres of water
- 100g of honey
- 7 tablespoons of cider vinegar
- 7-8 heads of elderflowers
- 2 organic lemons (juice from 1 lemon and 1 lemon sliced)
Pour the water in a large jug or pot (ideally earthenware), add the honey and vinegar. Squeeze the juice from one lemon, cut the lemon in pieces and add both to the mixture. Then put the flowers into the jug and stir well. Cover and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. The dandelion is ready after 1 day. Just strain and serve ice cool.
Later, replace the Elderflowers with 25 heads of Meadowsweet flowers. If you let your lemonade ferment, it becomes Fion Lonnrach. (Caution: Use sturdy bottles!)
Parsley Lovage Pesto
- 30g Parsley
- 20g Lovage
- 40g walnuts, toasted if possible
- 2 gloves garlic minced
- natural sea salt
- extra virgin olive oil as needed
- 30g parmesan cheese (optional)
Place parsley, lovage, walnuts, garlic and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Pulse into a coarse paste and slowly pour in the oil to make a smooth paste, pour in a bowl and gently stir in the grated parmesan cheese. Season with salt.
The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim, is running a one-day course on storing and preserving vegetables and fruit on July 3. Contact the centre for more details.
Hans Wieland is joint manager of The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim, which offers courses, training and information in organic growing, and runs an Eco Shop and an online gardening store. For more information, visit www.theorganiccentre.ie, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 071 9854338.Questions or comments? Contact Hans at email@example.com.