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The Kitchen Garden: Happy harvest time

PUBLISHED: 11:02 01 September 2015 | UPDATED: 11:02 01 September 2015

tomatoes

tomatoes

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Belinda Gray’s guide to growing your own fruit and veg

Drying beansDrying beans

September in the kitchen garden can be warm and balmy, allowing plenty more gardening time outside.

Maybe we will be blessed with an Indian summer, allowing more time for last minute sowings, early germinations for spring and, of course, the joy of harvest time.

This is a great month to stock up for winter. I feel like a squirrel looking at everything growing to see how I can utilise my home-grown veg for leaner months ahead. Now is the time to dedicate to making some delicious preserves – surplus in a pretty jar make wonderful gifts for non-growers – fruit compotes, soups, ratatouille and chutneys to stash away in the cupboard and freezer.

Storing crops for longevity is important as wrong conditions can encourage rot and attract disease. I’m still eating butternut squash harvested and stored in a cool cellar from last year. Pumpkins and squash need more growing time to reach maturity, but main crop potatoes may be ready from mid-month, so be prepared to store.

Belinda Gray in her walled garden.Belinda Gray in her walled garden.

5 TIPS FOR STORING MAIN CROP POTATOES

Widespread flowering indicates tubers are ready for lifting-lift all main crop potatoes by mid -October.

Select a dry day to dig, allowing tubers to rest on the soil surface for three to four hours.

Lift with great care as tubers can be easily bruised giving them a shorter storage life – there is such thing as a potato scooper.

Store in a cool place like a shed or out house with low humidity, in potato sacks or traditional hessian sacks. Avoid plastic, as it will exacerbate condensation, leading to rot.

Any tubers showing blemishes, dark patches or breaks in their skins, use now as they can contaminate the rest during the storing months ahead.

Mediterranean vegetables such as aubergines, red peppers and tomatoes are in their prime so this is the time to test for the ripest, pick the last of the floppy-leaved basil and set to, cooking up large vats of passata sauce, rich red soups, pesto for pasta and my all year round favourite, ratatouille to stash away in the freezer.

If like me you got carried away with all the bean varieties on offer in the seed catalogues back in January, you will have eaten and harvested more than enough. That’s why I always ensure I grow some which revert to great drying beans as now is the time to process them for storing and use over winter, adding flavour and texture to soups, casseroles and warming stews.

HOW TO DRY BEANS

Leave pods on plants until they have turned yellow and the beans within begin to rattle. Cut the beans at ground level and hang them in a greenhouse or warm place to thoroughly dry out. When the pods are brittle after two to three weeks, shell the beans within and leave on open trays for a few days to thoroughly lose the last drop of moisture. Store in airtight containers ensuring you soak the beans overnight before cooking.

My recommended beans for drying

BORLOTTO LINGUA di FUOCO– stunning speckled purple and white beans in large pods

CANNELLINO – white beans, which are best for home, made baked beans- delicious

CZAR – large, white buttery beans

BROWN DUTCH – golden brown beans

YIN YANG– black and white bicolour beans

DOLICO DALL OCCHIO- black-eyed variety

Jobs for September in the kitchen garden

• Lift main crop potatoes if flowering and store

• Keep picking all beans for further cropping

• Remove shading leaves on squashes and pumpkins

• Pick beans for drying

• Cut down yellow asparagus foliage to ground level, weed area and dig on plenty of well rotted muck

• Order you garlic for autumn planting next month

• Sow some fast growing salad crops indoors

• Lift onions for storing

• Compost all your harvested foliage

• Prepare an airy leaf mould compost bin for autumn

SOW NOW – a great time to sow short rows of hardy vegetables and salad crops, they will germinate in the warm soil, sleep through winter and be the first to sprout in spring

Spinach, mizuna, rocket, chard, sorrel, spring onions

Recipe – Belinda’s ratatouille

This has to be the most delicious way to use up my excess of Mediterranean fruits and to ensure you have a constant supply of these wonderful vegetables over winter , plucked at their ripest and most flavoursome.

Serves 12

Olive oil

3 large onions, peeled and chopped

3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed

5 courgettes cut into chunks- mix of green and yellow

3 large aubergines cut into chunks

2 red peppers, stalks and seeds removed

2 yellow peppers, stalks and seeds removed

10-12 large tomatoes ( or x 3 tins)chopped, skins and seeds removed

2 tbs tomato puree

Sprigs of fresh Rosemary

In a large bowl coat the chunks of vegetables and rosemary with a generous coating of olive oil and slow roast them at 180 c for about an hour, adding a little more oil if they are sticking removing when they are beginning to slightly brown.

Meanwhile in a heavy bottomed pan slowly cook the chopped onions, adding the chopped garlic 5 mins. later and allow them to start going golden. Add the tomatoes and tomato puree and allow to cook gently for 5-10 mins. Cool then liquidise half the mix returning it to the pan with the other half and adding the oven roasted vegetables once cooked. Allow to gently cook for 10 mins, increasing the heat so it bubbles if too liquid. Season and add a tsp of sugar to balance the flavour if needed. Cool thoroughly and freeze excess into portions.

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