Preserving the Harvest
(7 March 2014)
March is traditionally a busy time in the garden especially this year with what has turned out to be a bumper harvest season and mostly pleasant growing conditions (excluding the hideous weather Mother Nature dished out over Christmas of course – what would life be without its challenges). Generally low humidity, long sunny days and mild summer nights has seen tomatoes thriving and prolific, beans crisp and juicy, and zucchini threatening to take over the world as we know it.
With this glut of produce brings the need to preserve some of the harvest so we can enjoy the fabulous taste and superior nutrition of home grown food all year round, not just when conditions are favourable. This year I have set myself the challenge of not wasting any surplus produce at all, whether cooking straight from garden to table, stewing, freezing, dehydrating, pickling, bottling or sharing with neighbours. A huge undertaking, you might ask, absolutely; I have never been as busy in my life, but nor have I felt as satisfied or proud. My cupboards are bursting with bottles of summer fruit, jars of chutney and containers of muffins, dehydrated herbs and fruit.
I have even tried my hand at making fruit leather, aka a chewy, flat roll similar to a gummy bear but is actually good for you. Admittedly my first attempt at this chewy treat was somewhat of a failure. I followed the rather simplified instructions on the side of my food dehydrator box and ended up with something not unlike what I imagine day old fairy floss to look like – sticky, unappetising and dispersed. Second time around I stewed the apple first rather than using it raw, added water to compensate for their tendency to dry out, and processed it all thoroughly. Ten hours later, I had myself a vibrant yellow, preservative free fruit leather. That was a week ago, and I still haven’t had the heart to eat it, it is so beautiful.
March is the time to embrace your garden, utilise what it has to offer, and take the time to eat one’s fruit leathers.