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Article by Caroline Knight | 1st September 2019

Harvest free-for-all!

Don’t let September’s home-grown harvest glut go to waste.

Gorgeous glut? Fill up your larder cupboard and prepare some perfect presents or summer treats to freeze now and enjoy later. The September harvest often sees fruit and vegetables going to waste – so what can you do with the excess?

Firstly, don’t be tempted to leave anything to go past its prime. Pick crops when they are at their very best. Secondly, don’t wash anything until you are ready to either eat it or preserve it as the act of washing can attract bacterial growth.

Many crops can last for several weeks, or even up to six months, if they are cooled and stored in a well-ventilated, dark place. A shed or garage could be ideal, but if the air is exceptionally dry, root crops can shrivel up.

Placing root crops on damp sand will help them to retain their moisture. Potatoes are best left to dry outside in the sun to help toughen up the skins, and then store them in something like a hessian or paper sack in a dark place.

Apples are best wrapped in newspaper, then placed carefully in cardboard boxes for storing in a cool place such as a shed.

  • Consider freezing crops such as soft fruit. Leave currants on their stems, then freeze them before taking off the stems and bagging. Raspberries should be frozen on trays before bagging.
  • Green vegetables including Brussels sprouts, beans and broccoli should be blanched in boiling water as soon as possible after picking. Then cool and dry them and freeze in bags.
  • Apples, pears and plums are a little trickier. They need to be sliced, then doused in fresh lemon juice before freezing. You could also consider juicing them.
  • Other preserving ideas include making chutney, pickles and jams – the ideal gift for Christmas! 

4 things to do in the garden this month

  1. Take down hanging baskets and clear those summer plants away. But this doesn’t need to signify the end – replenish the compost and fill your containers with winter bedding such as pansies and violas. You can include autumn-interest with heucheras, heathers and cyclamen. Underplant with spring bulbs for continuous colour.
  2.  Plant prepared hyacinths from now until the beginning of October if you want to enjoy the heady scent during Christmas (apologies for mentioning the “C” word). These bulbs need to be placed in a cool, dark place for 10-12 weeks before bringing them out into the light.
  3.  Lift onions on a dry, sunny day, once the leaves are beginning to wilt and fold. Allow them to dry out, then brush off the soil and store them until needed. You can plait them together for the ultimate kitchen adornment.
  4.  It’s a great time to cut hedges. Nesting birds should no longer be around – what’s more, trim now and your hedges will stay looking pristine throughout the whole of winter.

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