Ideas for surplus fresh fruit and veg


LIVELY SALADS Fruit, pickles, nuts and seeds add interest, taste and variety to salads.

Tips on how to use up the garden’s bounty

Green Living
McKinley Neal

For the second year in a row, I can only just point out a ripe strawberry before a small hand grabs it and pops it into a small mouth. As soon as the raspberries ripen, it will be the same scenario, and I’ll have to keep my hopes up for next year.   
With the exception of berries, though, as soon as you start growing food, you’ll notice how quickly the crops start to mature at the same time, and you might find you have more of some things than your family can eat. So what can you do to avoid wasting the food you’ve lovingly tended?
First, it’s important to remember that eating really fresh veg is one of the most exciting things about summer. So, now is the time to adjust your habits to incorporate vegetables for every meal of the day.
As a child, I remember eating a slice of toast with melted cheese and fresh tomatoes for breakfast with my Dad before he went to work. And, like berries, peas and other crops are ready to eat as a gardener’s snack, straight after harvesting. For kids, a ‘dip’ of natural yogurt or peanut butter make carrots or celery much more exciting. And of course, you’ll have the best-tasting veg for your side dishes to meat if that’s your preference.
We used to have a ‘salad starter’ before dinner every day growing up, as the options for toppings and dressings make salads endlessly interesting; use fruit, pickles, nuts and seeds for variety.
For breakfast, leaves and vegetables are easy to add in with a juice or a smoothie if you have a blender. Pesto can be made with nearly any leaf or blend of several, and you can always mix in other flavours and use it on bread, pasta or in meals.
Freezing is another easy way to store veg for several months. Most veg, including greens and herbs, benefits from blanching first, so pop the veg into boiling water for 2-3 minutes and then immediately transfer to an ice bath for another two minutes. This will take care of anything nasty on the surface of the veg, and keep the nutrients and colour intact. Store in airtight containers.
Freeze berries separately first and then combine in a bag or container; a compote or puree of softer fruit like apples, peaches and plums works well.  
Preserving food by fermentation is fun and adaptable. I’m on my second batch of ‘pickled’ radishes; I dissolved two teaspoons salt and one teaspoon sugar in boiled water, let it cool, and then packed topped-and-tailed radishes with some garlic cloves, slices of fresh ginger root and chilli flakes into a reused jar and let it sit on the counter top to ferment for about seven days. We used them straight away on salads and with a cheese board, or they can be refrigerated for longer. River Run Ferments in Co Wicklow is a fermentation specialist and worth learning from.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.