Posts Tagged ‘Storing vegetables’


How to Store Potatoes

We’ve been digging potatoes for the last few weeks but it’s approaching the time of year when we’ll have to start thinking about lifting and storing any surplus potatoes.

It doesn’t harm the potato crop to leave them in the ground, and it means you don’t have to worry about finding space to store them. Also I find if you bag your potatoes too soon they are more prone to rot off in the bag.

I leave my potato crop in the ground until the first frost, after which I’ll dig them up, remove the stalks and leave the crop sitting on the top of the soil for a couple of days to dry before storing.

To store my potato crop I use empty 56kg chicken feed bags which are made from layered paper. The paper stops the potatoes from sweating and rotting in the bag. To be honest they tend to get eaten before they have a chance to go bad anyway. :)

Sort any green or bad potatoes out before storing or they will turn the rest of your crop. Also never store potatoes near or close to stored fruit if possible as the fruit gives off a chemical that causes the potato crop to sprout.

Final tip, store your potatoes in a cool dry spot like an out house or shed, or if you’re really lucky a cool aerated pantry.

I’ve had a pretty good crop this year despite all the hot weather we’ve been having. I grew Charlotte and Desiree and both have produced a nice clean potato pretty much free from blight.

I really got hit with blight last year and so this year I grew my crop in a completely different location and well away from my tomatoes, which is another tip if you want to avoid blight.

Hope you managed to find room for a few potatoes this year!

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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The kitchen garden in Spring is my most favourite time in the garden and certainly the busiest. But I’m not complaining, all this physical work is welcome exercise for my waistline!

I know it sounds a bit cliched, but growing your own veg really is the way to go and you can soooo taste the difference. I also grow far too much of everything, but this year I have a plan for my surplus.

How About An Honesty Table?

Each year we grow as much fruit and veg as we need and always end up giving loads away or relegating it to the compost heap. But this year I’m going to try something new. I’m going to put an honesty box at the end of my lane. If this is as new to you, as it was to me (until my friend Ruth told me) then read on.

Basically an honesty table is somewhere where you lay out your spare produce and invite passers by to drop a couple of coins into an old box , in exchange for your surplus. Seems like a great idea. Joe Public gets to take home some lovely fresh organic fruit and veg, while you (hopefully) collect a few pounds to spend on the garden or give to your favorite charity. I suppose someone could always nab your table along with the proceeds, but hey if their they needs that great then they’re welcome to it.

We’re lucky to have a lane at the end of our plot, which leads onto another minor road that is often used by walkers, so we might attract a few passers by. But before then I need to get on with growing some produce, or we’ll have nothing for the kitchen, let alone the rambler!

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

We adopt a ‘rotation system’ at Blackbirds, which basically means creating separate and distinct plots for each of the different veg types. We’re also organic, which means we never apply any chemicals, which means we have to find ways of minimising potential threats from ground borne diseases in other ways and crop rotations certainly helps.

It doesn’t matter how large or small your plot, just so long as you avoid growing the same group in the same space for at least 3 years.

Plot 1
My first plot is planted up with a few rows of potatoes. This year i’m only growing Charlotte as it seems to like my chalky ground and I find they don’t go all mushy when I cook them. We also make a fair bit of potato salad in the summer and Charlotte works really well in potato salad.

Last years second early potato crop

Last years second early potato crop ‘Charlotte’

We eat a fair bit of salad in the summer and I find Charlottes are excellent for potato salad.

My recipe for the perfect potato salad

Cook off about a dozen new potatoes, making sure not too over cook them. They should be softish on the outside, but still fairly firm on the inside.

While they’re cooking prepare the dressing.

Dressing.

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of good vegetable oil. You can use extra virgin olive oil if you prefer the taste, personally I find it overpowers the potatoes.
  • 1 – 2 Teaspoons of Maggie seasoning.
  • 3 – 4 teaspoons of warm vegetable or chicken stock. (I prefer Knorr stock cubes)
  • Tablespoon of wine vinegar.
  • Teaspoon of lemon juice.
  • Couple of grinds of black pepper.
  • Medium sized onion finely chopped, or alternatively finely chop a spring onion.
  • Small chopped garlic clove (optional).

Mix all the ingredients together really well in a bowl.

When the potatoes are cooked drain them well and while they are still warm peel them and chop into approx 1 inch cubes. Then add the potatoes to the dressing and fold the potatoes in. As the potatoes are warm they will soak up the dressing and produce the most amazing tasting potato salad. It doesn’t work nearly as well with cold potatoes.

If the mix is a bit too wet, add a teaspoon of cornflower mixed with a little cold water and fold it in and the mix will thicken nicely.

Serve with grilled sausages, lettuce and tomato salads.

Gorgeous.

Plot 2 – Root Veg

My second plot is for my root veg. I’ve sown my beetroot in modules which have started to appear at long last. I’ll transplant in a couple of weeks when the risk of frosts has past. We use a lot of Beetroot both in salads and pickling for the winter.

I’ve planted 2 rows of early Nantes carrots, Kohl Rabi, Spring Onions and Turnips. The Spring Onions will help to keep the carrot fly from laying there eggs. It’s the larvae that do the damage as they burrow into the carrot. Nasty things they are, completely ruin your carrots if you let them.

Last Years Early Nantes Carrot

Plot 3 – Legumes
So far I’ve got my sugar peas in and they’re doing quit well, which I think is because they are slightly protected by the potting shed. I’ve planted my main crop peas in pots in the polytunnel, and they will go outside in a couple of weeks.

Plot 4 – Onions, Shallots and Garlic
I like to start my onion sets off in modules, but you need to keep an eye on the watering as they can be prone to dry out. Three weeks later weeks and they’re big enough to be planted out, and but his time they’re too big for the birds to yank them out!

How to grow onions the organic way with the Rural Gardener

Plot 5 – Lettuce
This year I’m going to be a bit more adventurous and growing several different varieties of lettuce. Instead of growing them in the kitchen garden I’m going to build a small raised bed close to the house to grow my everyday salads like lettuce, radish and maybe a few tomatoes when the weather warms up.

Plan is to build a simple wooden frame out of some gash timber we have around the place and position it next to the herb garden. I’ll fill it with some top soil mixed in equal quantity of well rotted compost and plant straight into it. Should be fun.

Tom Thumb Lettuce

One of the benefits of a Poly tunnel is the early salad crops including these gorgeous little Tom Thumbs.

Tom Thumb is my absolute favourite of all the lettuce and an excellent candidate for small gardens or of you’re stuck for space. I’ve also planted Lorroroso, Cos and Rocket, all in modules. The seeds only cost me 10 pence each, so we should have salads for weeks in the summer, and all for the price of a daily newspaper.

As for the rest of my kitchen garden it’s waiting from the weather to warm up a bit so we can plant out the Sweetcorn, Dwarf Beans and main crop Peas. I have planted them this early in the past, but the weather hasn’t been great over the last few days, so I think I’ll hang on for a bit longer.

Back soon.

Best wishes.

Tania.

Rural Gardener

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Fresh, Organic Tomatoes ripening on the vine.

If you’d like to keep this post for future reference I have created a PDF. It’s absolutely free, so please feel free to download as many times as you like, with my best wishes.

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A Fun Method For Storing Your Surplus Tomato Crop For Winter

It’s fast approaching the time of year when it’s time to start to thinking about storing the surplus tomatoes ready for use over the winter.

We grow quite a few tomatoes in the polytunnel each year and always have a few tomatoes left over which we either cook and store in tubs in the freezer, frozen as whole tomatoes for soups, or processing into home made tomato chutney.

How to freeze tomatoes

Here’s a slightly different idea for using those left over tomatoes.

Heat a large saucepan of boiling water until it is just starting to steam, then add enough tomatoes to fill the pan. Leave them in the boiling water until the skins start to crack.

Take them out of the boiling water and put them in a bowl of cold water. (It makes it easier to remove the skins)

Take a blender, or masher and blend your tomatoes to a pulp. It’s worth passing them through a sieve to remove any unwanted skins or seeds which will keep the tomato mix nice and  smooth.

Next, allow the tomato to cool down, then, using a measuring jug  pour the puree into either mini muffin trays or individual Yorkshire pudding trays. At this point you can flavor the sauce to your own taste, or leave it plain. I like to add a few leaves of basil, marjoram or oregano to give the puree a taste of the Mediterranean.

Tomato puree waiting patiently to go into the freezer

Here I’m using a regular Yorkshire pudding tray

Put the tray in the freezer over night to set hard, then the next day take the tomato parcels out of the tray, bag them up and return them to the freezer.  Each parcel is equivalent to roughly two whole tomatoes.

Tomatoes stored ready for winterThis summers tomatoes ready for winter
The next time you need fresh tomato sauce for your chili, casseroles or pasta dish, simply dip into your freezer and add a few pieces to the pan!

Best wishes,

Tania.

PS. I also freeze my soft leaved herbs like Lovage, Parsley and Marjoram in the same way. Whiz them up in a food processor, or chop them finely, then place them into a measuring jug and add some water. Then freeze in the same way as the tomatoes.

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