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The long, summer days may be beginning to draw in, but for many gardeners, the best days are just on the horizon. Anyone with a kitchen garden or allotment should be enjoying a harvest 'glut' throughout the autumn months, reaping the benefits of the hard work they've invested throughout the year.
Whilst this year may have been warmer and drier than most, with droughts plaguing much of the summer, there are still plenty of hardier fruit and vegetables that have continued to thrive, especially if they have had a Rhino greenhouse in which to dwell.
If you have been fortunate enough to harvest a healthy and plentiful crop, you might well be wondering what you can do with any surplus. This blog will aim to give you some ideas of how to extend the life of your harvest whilst reducing waste.
How do most people tackle their autumn glut?
According to a recent survey on The Rhino Owners Forum, the most popular choice of using up a glut of produce is by sharing it with family and friends, with 40% of those surveyed saying this is their preferred method, with batch cooking and freezing being a close runner up.
How do the experts recommend you make the most of your autumn glut?
Rhino's growing expert, Andrew White, agrees that sharing a glut can indeed be a great way of using up excess produce, whilst doing something thoughtful for those around you. Andrew even suggests that by cleverly planning amongst friends what each of you plans to grow, you can minimise growing space whilst maximising variety.
"Planning your growing efforts ahead of time with friends and family, allows you to focus on less plants, and creating the perfect environment for a healthy yield whilst still enjoying a variety of delicious produce."
Here’s some more of Andrew’s top tips for preserving or prolonging your glut.
- Preserving- A timeless favourite spanning back centuries, jams, chutneys, and jellies are a great way to use up excess fruit and veg
- Freezing- Either straight from the garden or once cooked and portioned into batches
- Donating to a local food bank is a great way to save on waste whilst doing a little bit of good within your community. With many families struggling financially at the moment, now is a fantastic time to consider giving away anything superfluous to food banks or community centres. There are 2000 food banks nationwide, most of which are run by The Trussell Trust. To find a food bank local to you, please visit the Trussell Trust Website.
What to do with a glut of courgettes?
A Rhino Raised Bed staple, the humble courgette is a highly productive plant fruiting abundantly between July and October that can be used in a multitude of ways in cooking and preserving.
Courgettes are incredibly versatile and can be used within both savoury and sweet recipes. Ratatouille, Courgette fritters or even chocolate courgette cake make for real crowd pleasers!
How to preserve courgettes
Grilled Courgettes in Oil
Jarring in olive oil is a simple, Mediterranean inspired way of preserving fruit and vegetables such as peppers and courgettes. With as few as four ingredients, it is a good alternative to pickling and a great edition to a charcuterie or mezze board. Be sure to not skimp on the oil though as a high-quality extra virgin olive oil will really elevate this recipe.
- 500g courgettes, sliced into rounds
- 250ml olive oil
- 100ml white wine vinegar
- 50g garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 50g fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 20g salt
- Place the cooked courgettes in a large, sterilised jar.
- In a small pan, heat the olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic, and basil until just bubbling.
- Pour the hot mixture over the courgettes.
- Seal the jar and leave to cool.
- Store in a cool, dark place for up to six months
How to use up a glut of tomatoes
Tomatoes have a similarly gluttonous nature to the courgette. Luckily, they are also incredibly versatile, meaning using them up shouldn’t be a problem for most.
A simple passata or soup is a delicious way of making the most of this family favourite and can also be frozen for a later date.
How to preserve tomatoes
If you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes, consider canning them. Canning is a great way to preserve your tomatoes so that you can enjoy them all year long. Plus, it's a fun activity to do with friends or family. Here's our recipe for canned tomatoes:
- Lemon juice
- Wash the tomatoes.
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Carefully lower the tomatoes into the boiling water.
- Boil for about five minutes, or until the skins start to peel off.
- Remove the tomatoes from the pot and place them in a bowl of cold water.
- Once they're cool enough to handle, peel off the skins.
- Cut out any bad spots or blemishes.
- Place the tomatoes in a sterilised canning jar.
- Fill the jar with water leaving about an inch of headspace.
- Add salt and lemon juice to taste.
- Wipe the rim of the jar clean and place a lid on top.
- Screw on the lid tight and process in a boiling water bath for about 45 minutes.
- Remove from the boiling water bath and allow to cool.
- Store in a cool, dark place.
How to use up a glut of apples
There’s little nicer than biting into a crunchy British apple. If you’re lucky enough to have an apple tree or orchard of your own, then you’ll know that figuring out what to do with a particularly bountiful year can be trickier than you might imagine.
Apples are best stored in well ventilated, wooden crates and should last for several weeks if stored well.
What you do with a glut of apples will differ based on what kind of apple tree you have. If you are lucky enough to have one of the British varieties of dessert apples, then simply tucking in or sharing amongst friends and family might well be the simplest way of using up this well-loved fruit. If, however, your tree provides culinary apples such as the Bramley, you may have to come up with a craftier way of using up any excess.
Warming, comforting and ideally covered in custard, there’s not much most of us enjoy more than a delicious bowl of apple crumble. The perfect way to use up culinary apples, as well as plums and any kind of brambleberry.
How to preserve apples
Juicing is a fantastic way of preserving a glut of apples, with certain varieties such as the Cox apple, working deliciously well due to their natural sweetness. To make your own apple juice, simply wash and cut up your apples (no need to remove the skin or seeds), and then place them in a juicer. If you don't have a juicer, you can also use a blender - just be sure to strain the juice before drinking it.
General advice for preserving produce
One easy way to preserve fruits and vegetables is by freezing them. Most produce can be frozen without any pre-treatment, although blanching (briefly boiling in water) beforehand can help preserve colour and texture. To freeze fruits, simply wash, dry and slice them before placing on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once frozen, transfer to airtight containers or freezer bags.
For vegetables, blanching is recommended. First, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath. Add the vegetables to the boiling water and cook for a few minutes, then transfer to the ice bath. Once cooled, dry them off and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze as above.
What equipment do you need to pickle your vegetables?
You don't need any special equipment to pickle, just a large pan for boiling the jars in and a small funnel for pouring the vinegar mixture into the jars. You can reuse old jam jars or buy new ones from most supermarkets.
If you want to get fancy, you can invest in a pickling spice mix and some special pickling salt, but you can also just use regular old spices and table salt.
What are the best vegetables to pickle?
Pickling is a fantastic way of preserving all sorts of vegetables, from cucumbers and onions to carrots and Brussels sprouts. Just about any vegetable can be pickled, so it's a great way to use up a glut of veg from your garden or the farmers' market.
Are certain fruits / vegetables not suitable for the preserving process?
The quick answer is no, but some are easier to preserve than others. You might have to just get a little bit more creative with certain produce, particularly with root vegetables.
With the festive season fast approaching, now is a great time to think about ways to incorporate your glut into festive offerings for family and friends. If you're lucky enough to have grown cranberries, then why not make a jelly or sauce to gift this Christmas. Apple sauce also makes for a great hamper addition, as does an onion or plum chutney.
How to avoid a vegetable glut in the future
Of course, the best way to avoid waste is to grow only what you need. It is important to be realistic about how much produce you and your family will actually consume. Another option is to grow smaller quantities of a greater variety of vegetables. This way, you are less likely to get bored with eating the same thing.
For more information on how you can avoid an autumn glut in the future, please visit our blog post, Glut no more!