Every summer I struggle with an overabundance of fruit and veggies. Not a big problem you might think, after all too much is better than too little. However, when you’ve got eight crates of plums to get through, not to mention a glut of tomatoes, a clutch of cucumbers, bundles of beans, clusters of courgettes, a cauldron of chillies, a stomping of squash and a firkin of figs the novelty does wear thin. Feast or famine is a common occurrence with home gardening, or any cropping for that matter. The trick is to learn from your mistakes to avoid famine (sometimes I learn the hard way it seems, as I look at my third year of total garlic wipe out in a row!) and give away, or process, the feast as quickly as possible.
The glut of tomatoes was to be made into soup, until a stocktake of the freezer disclosed half a dozen ice-cream containers of frozen tomato soup from last season. Tomato sauce and chilli sauce also already line the pantry shelves. So pasta sauce, tomato paste or freezing the fruit look to be the go-to options this season.
Last year was a famine for the plums, so a couple of dozen Mason jars of stewed plums is welcome in the pantry for use in desserts and smoothies through the winter months. A drinking buddy and I recently cracked open a Mason jar of Sultan plums that had been soaking in home-made vodka for two years; delicious! So, another five of these were put down this season and more are planned, maybe with a stick of cinnamon or pod of vanilla in each jar to spice it up a bit.
We have also had a crack at the figs in rum (a variation on the classic German rumtopf), which have been soaking since last year. They were exceptionally yummy, although sticky sweet and turning a bit raisiny, so probably best consumed a few months after being put down rather than a year later. Both the boozy plums and the sticky figs are superb as desserts with a crushed gingernut biscuit base and folded into lots of whipped cream – or just added to vanilla ice-cream.
There are a myriad of recipes on the internet for using up surplus courgettes, but Angela’s courgette and potato fritters are my favourite. I can eat a full meal just of these!
Cucumbers are a little more difficult to squirrel away, but as we’re currently low on pickles this will be our solution this year.
A can of peaches or pickles from the supermarket may be cheaper and easier; but as any bottler will tell you, bottling soothes the soul and gladdens the heart. Not to mention that sense of satisfaction gained when friends and relatives enviously ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over your array of gorgeous preserves lined up discreetly (for months) on the kitchen bench.