The autumn harvest
PUBLISHED: 11:32 29 September 2015 | UPDATED: 11:32 29 September 2015
The Vegetarian Society
Belinda Gray's guide to growing fruit and veg
The pace is slowing down now as days get shorter, and there’s a definite nip in the air. Plummeting night temperatures can contrast with bright, clear days and tender plants startle and come to a bitter end.
This is the time to gather as much as you can and fill the freezer with rich ratatouille made from the final pickings of aubergines, tomatoes and peppers. It’s time for the final pick of prolonged flowering runner beans, while main crop potatoes and carrots are due to be lifted, ready to store.
Gatherings for the kitchen now become heartier as the earliest parsnips and celeriac are ready to harvest, as well as the golden squashes and pumpkins that are so versatile in Moroccan and Indian recipes, velvety soups, risottos and pasta sauces.
Curing squash and pumpkins
Curing is an historic process practised for centuries by gardeners. It is the method of hardening the skins for maximum longevity of storage through winter. Carefully place the fruits so they are not touching one another in a warm place at around 70°F for two weeks. A slatted bench in a greenhouse is ideal. Eat those that are bruised or damaged, as they will rapidly rot. After a few weeks the skins will feel really strong and ready for storing for up to three months in a cool, dry, dark place, at around 50°F. I have also heard that washing the exterior skins with a dilute solution of antiseptic helps to keep the burrowing bugs away. Store and toughen up your pumpkins and squash correctly and you will be rewarded by a lengthy supply of these wonderful golden fruits.
Autumn roasted roots
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cinnamon
3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 butternut squash, peeled, halves and deseeded
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 turnip peeled and chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Roast the seeds in the oven for 4-5 mins until going brown. Allow to cool. Grind the roasted seeds together with the spices in a pestle and mortar or grinder. In a large bowl mix the spices crushed garlic and oil. Stir together then add the vegetables and coat with the spice mix. Roast for about 45 mins. Until golden, turning once or twice as they cook.
This is always useful in late autumn to protect those leafy crops that still help make a great autumn salad, or deep green crops like chard, spinach and oriental leaved vegetables, whose leaves can get damaged by a heavy frost. A 30gm fleece protects to -2°C as well as giving valuable protection against strong wind, hail and problematic birds and insects. Buy it in long lengths to cut to size, or used as a fleece tunnel, which can be stored after use for another year. Fleece can be purchased in 2m or 4m widths and up to 50m length rolls.