As your garden or the local market fills with the harvests of the season the time is right for you to start looking at ways to take advantage of the oversupply. You will save money, create ready to use items and extend the availability of crops. The best thing about planning to preserve your own garden harvest is that you will be able to pick when produce is at its peak which is ideal for preservation. When purchasing produce, select undamaged items and always go for organic. There are a few different was to preserve your harvest and these are the following: heat, via pickling or fermentation, sugar and heat, freezing, alcohol or desiccation. All of these methods inhibit pathogens and prolong the shelf life of produce but not all are suitable for every delicious vegetable, fruit or herb from your harvest. Let’s explore ways to make the most of this season’s bounty.
As a general rule, use freshly picked young and tender vegetables. They all need to be blanched and this is to retain colour, taste, appearance and most importantly, nutrients. With the exception of rhubarb and quinches you won’t need to blanch fruits before freezing.
This method is suitable for bottling naturally acidic fruits but is not to be used for non-acidic produce because the risk of botulism, a deadly bacterium, is far too high. Tomatoes, most berries, apricots, plums, apples and pineapples are all good candidates for this system. Heat preservation involves packing washed raw fruits into sterilised jars and then filling with water that is sometimes flavoured. Lids are secured and the bottles are submerged in a water bath and heated for a length and time determined by the contents. A popular commercial system is Fowlers Vacola which includes a very supportive community to find out more: fowlersvacola.com.au
This is the pickling or fermentation of non-acidic vegetables and perhaps one of the best-known methods. Often referred to as ‘cold pickling’ because the bottles do not go through the heat process described above, although they can if desired. Produce is cleaned, often salted overnight first to remove excess water and then packed into jars into which a pickling solution is added. See the delicious recipe by Jen Jones of the Pickle Patch below.
Jams, jellies and conserves all use sugar and heat to preserve and with the addition of pectin these mixtures are set to a desired consistency. Pectin either occurs naturally in produce or needs to be added. Berries and citrus are the heroes for this method but with the addition of vinegars and herbs this is how chutneys and savoury sauces can also be made.
Apart from making liquors, covering fruits with alcohol is an easy way to preserve them while creating a delightfully delicious treat to add to your desserts or drinks. The addition of sugar will also increase the shelf life of the contents while adding sweetness.
Sounds scary but it simply means drying. By removing the moisture from produce, you can also halt spoilage. This drying can be done in a few different ways. Airdrying produce, often sliced, on racks under fly mesh in the full sun is an ancient method. Fan-forced ovens with their doors slightly opened and on the lowest heat will also provide a suitable drying environment. For those who wish to take the plunge, a dehydrator appliance is an excellent investment. All drying times will depend on the actual produce.
Jen Jones from Pickle’s Patch is a local home gardener from Chain Valley Bay who has mastered the art of preserving. She wastes nothing from her garden creating conserves, salsa, pickles, jams, sauces as well as herb mixes and even dried mushrooms. Taking it a step further Jen and her husband also create the most delicious fruit liquors. Although she admits there’s a lot of information available these days on the internet, Jen prefers hitting the local charity shops for classic old cookbooks and preserving guides. It's also where she has found the tools, jars and equipment needed including a Fowlers Vacola system and a dehydrator! This is a great way to keep costs down while also recycling. You can find Jen online: Facebook: Pickle’s Patch and Instagram: The Dreaded Kitchen Witch.
Jen’s favourite thing to do with excess cucumbers, which are in season right now, is a traditional English pickle which keeps the best of the season for all year round. You can use this recipe for other vegetables.
Pickle’s Patch Bread and Butter Pickles
6 large cucumbers (or the equivalent)
2tbsp of cooking salt
1 1/2 cups of white vinegar
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
2 tsp white mustard seeds
1 tbsp Black peppercorns
Slice and salt the cucumbers in a bowl, ensuring the slices are well covered in salt, cover and leave for an hour or so. Meanwhile combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Rinse the cucumbers well and strain in a colander. Pack the cucumber slices into sterilized preserving jars and pour hot spiced vinegar over to cover completely. Seal and place upside down for 1 min to complete the seal. Allow to cool and label
CEN Wildplant Sale & Talk with Jacquelene Pearson 9am Saturday 4th February. This is the first Community Environment Network plant sale of 2023 and Jacquelene Pearson will also be talking about the issues surrounding the environment in the local area. Wildplant Nursery, Loop Road, UoN Central Coast Campus, Ourimbah
Free Wicking Bed Workshop (online) 6:30pm Wednesday 22 February
Asa part of the National Sustainability Join Adam Grubb from Very Edible Gardens for an informative hour while learning how wicking beds work, if they are right for you, how to make them, and how to look after them for super veggie abundance. Book now: veryediblegardens.com.au/events/
Volunteers Wanted to join Doyalson Community Garden. An interest in gardening or a wiliness to learn. Centrelink Workplace Provider Contact Garden Co-ordinator Jules Sayers 0439463219
Late Summer temperate Australia - Summer fruit trees will need to be pruned once harvest is complete and keep deadheading those summer flowers. If looking at laying new turf, now is good time to do it. This week you could plant: culinary herbs, beans (dwarf), beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, cress, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard, onions (spring), parsnips, peas, potatoes (tubers), radishes, rhubarb (crowns), salsify, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, sweeds, turnips, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, cineraria, coneflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria, lobelia, lupin, nasturtium, nigella, pansy, poppy (Iceland), primula, statice, stock, verbena, vinca, viola, wallflower
Cheralyn Darcey is a horticulture author and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM96.3, on air locally or streaming by asking ‘play coastfm963’ Archived articles: florasphere.com
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