Tuesday, 20 September 2016

What to do with garden excess

A recent report by the Institution for Mechanical Engineers found that “30–50 per cent (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food produced never reaches a human stomach” – in rich countries like ours, because both grocery stories, and households throw away astonishing amounts of food.

One solution, of course, is for people to grow more of their own, but gardening can bring its own waste, as not everyone knows what to do with the mountains of courgettes. Most of us grew up with refrigerators and freezers as the method of preservation, forgetting that most people used to spend the autumn making their food to dry, salty, sweet or tart to slow down unwanted bacteria. They also used their vegetables in a wide variety of foods, substituting one for another in dishes as the harvests progressed.

Brassicas: The few people who make sauerkraut anymore do so from whole cabbages, but you could also use the large outer leaves of any brassica – broccoli, cauliflower, kale -- saving the tender inner leaves for coleslaw and other delicacies. The pigeons and slugs eat brassicas quickly this time of year in our parts, so get the plants while you can.

Courgettes and marrow: Bake it in bread, cakes or scones– you will find many recipes online or in cookbooks. Try it in quiche, casserole, soups, stir-fry or sandwiches. I have heard of people using courgettes as a basis for frittatas, moussaka, tarts and latkes, and even pickles, although I cannot speak from experience.

Peas: You can do so much beyond the standard mushy peas. Try squeezing the juice out and mixing it with vodka and lemon juice to create peatinis. Make a dipping sauce for toast or crisps. Dry them by the closetful for next year’s crops, and for pea soup through the winter.

Berries: Make into jam, pie filling, mash and dry them into fruit leathers. Fill plastic bags with them and set them in the freezer for later. Pile them into a clean, food-safe container, pour in vodka until it just barely covers them, and in a matter of months you have a liqueur.

Herbs: Cut off some of the plants at the base, hang them upside-down in the closet or greenhouse to dry, and use them over the rest of the year for flavourings or tea. Or, mash basil and other herbs with pine nuts and olive oil to make pesto.

Tomatoes: Make a large pot of tomato sauce, wait for it to cool, and seal it in jars or tins. You can also pour them into old plastic containers, like butter or ice cream, and keep them in the freezer. Either way, label them well, and use a small container whenever you need to make spaghetti for the rest of the year.

Onions: Most people dry the bulbs, of course, but there’s no reason to throw away the stems. Try making onion soup just with the stems, and instead of frying the onions thoroughly as you would to make conventional onion soup, try just sautéing them lightly. It will create a very different sort of dish, and a filling one.

Beans: Many people here eat baked beans or use them in soups, but fewer people make them in salads. To make bean salad just pick the beans and drop them in boiling water for a minute or two – or if you are using dry beans, soak them overnight and cook them until they are soft. Wait until the beans cool, and toss them in a salad with diced salad greens, tomatoes, oil, lemon juice, herbs, and spices.

Remember that quiche – that French pie of egg and cheese covering cooked food – hides a multitude of leftovers and excess. If you have leftover spinach, broccoli, herbs, or various kinds of meat, you can chop and mix them, put a pie crust in a dish, and put the leftover mix on top. Then sprinkle a handful of cheddar or some other meltable cheese over it, beat together a few eggs, pour the egg mixture over everything, and put it in the oven for half an hour or so at 200 degrees. This is a very general recipe, of course – a basic template on which to build. Experiment and see what you like.

1 comment:

DavidT said...

Easy, tasty use for courgettes (zucchini):

Chop, mix with garlic, oil, salt, roast then liquidise and adjust seasoning. No stock required. Quickest, easiest soup ever.

You’ll eat this every day if you have a lot of courgettes, it’s so good. Best eaten within an hour of harvest. 8))