Are gooseberries evil?

Before we rush on to the mists and mellow fruitfulness a time of year i love, we have to handle the glut of Summer fruit and veg, which all come at once and have to be ‘dealt with’.  Whether eaten, prepared and frozen or frozen straightway they all require some sort of attention.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love the things we grow, and try to only grow things we’ll actually eat but sometimes you can feel under siege with the crop.

It starts with the gooseberries.  Plump green and so heavy the branches bow under the weight.  BUT, gauntlets are required to pick them, their needle sharp thorns stab at the slightest opportunity, and grab your clothes as you pass.  This year we picked 34lb (in old money). No-one needs that many.  So we give them away and inevitably freeze them whole or as puree.  Yesterday’s gooseberry crumble involved frostbite as I topped and tailed the frozen berries, which when cooked slumped down to just enough to cover the bottom of the pie dish and produced half a litre of sweetened gooseberry juice.  I think the answer is yes…they are evil.  But i did make a decent jam with ginger.

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Bob Flowerdew of Gardeners Question Time fame gave an interesting talk recently about making the most of your harvest and a lot of it made complete sense.  He said:

Eat the best of the crop yourself.  Eat it Fresh.  Don’t give it away to friends who take it home and then let it slowly waste away in the fridge!

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Net your soft fruit against birds, and garnish your garden with scary objects – toys, painted hosepipe, old fur hats that look like cats etc.

Make ice lollies

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When making jam use more fruit and less sugar.

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Try new recipes – kohl rhabi slaw?  Now I don’t grow this knobbly bundle of joy but on the basis of this delicious recipe I may have a go.  Mix together 1/3 of a cup of mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons groundnut or similar light oil, 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons grainy mustard, 3/4 teaspoon sugar, salt to taste,  coarsley ground black pepper, 1 kilo shredded kohlrabi peeled and coarsely shredded, 1 cup shredded green cabbage,  2 sticks celery sliced thinly.  Chill and enjoy.   Makes – a lot.

Fruit leather? Simmer the fruit with it’s own weight (or more) of chopped apples, then pass it through a sieve to produce a pulped puree. Pour this on to an oiled tray and dry thoroughly in an airing cupboard, warm open oven or over a range. The drying process will concentrate the fruit acids and sugars and intensify the flavour. Once dry, peel the sheet off, dust with caster sugar and cut into strips.

My pulse does quicken at the courgette and runner bean harvest, and this year we determined to eat them small and sweet.

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All the ingredients for ratatouille assembled in front of me, red peppers, courgettes, onions, garlic and tomatoes.  Chopped, sautéed  in olive oil and garlic and the chopped (or tinned) tomatoes and juice and cooked down to a fudgy consistency is the way we like it.  My sister makes hobbit ratatouille with great big chunks of still crisp vegetables like a big garden stew.  Whatever takes your fancy.  In the freezer for the long cold evenings.

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And if you only have a patio or a window box…here’s what children did with a baked bean can.  Happy harvesting everyone.

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