Saving Summer – A How To Guide for Summer Veg and Herbs!
As the weather starts to get cold, summer crops come to an end. Here are some tips to make the most of summer veg and herbs by ripening, storing and preserving.
Waste Not, Want Not
- Pick squashes when the stalks are dry, with a 5 -10cm stem, to prevent the point where the stem attaches to the fruit from rotting. Store in a dark, cool cupboard.
- Dig up potatoes only when the plant has died down completely. Wipe soil off the potatoes (don’t wash them), and store them in a hessian or paper bag in a dark cupboard to prevent them from going green.
- Beetroot and carrots can stay in the ground over winter if you don’t need the space.
Ripening Tips for Summer Veg and Herbs
- In areas where frost occurs at the end of May, remove small unripe fruit (tomatoes, brinjals, squashes etc.) so that the plant can put its energy into ripening the larger remaining fruit.
- To speed up the ripening of tomatoes, remove any leaves that shade fruit from the sun.
- If there is a danger of early frost, pull out tomatoes that still have fruit and hang them upside-down (roots and all) in a sheltered place out of the sun so that the fruit can ripen.
- Another way to ripen tomatoes is to put the green fruit on a tray, lightly cover it with brown paper, and put it in a dark room with a ripe banana, red tomato or ripe apple to speed up the ripening process.
Other Ideas for Preserving Summer Veg and Herbs
- Make pesto from basil, rocket or coriander leaves (with parsley as an additional ingredient) and freeze the pesto in blocks for adding to tomato sauces and pasta dishes.
- Make herbal vinegar or flavoured oil for use in cooking or for dressing salads. The best herbs for oils are basil, rosemary, tarragon and lemon thyme. Herbal vinegars can be made from single herbs or a combination, like basil and lemon thyme; dill and mustard seed; rosemary and garlic, or lemon grass and bay leaf.
How To Freeze Veg and Herbs
Herbs like basil, coriander, parsley and mint are tasteless when dried, which makes freezing them the best option. Lovage and tarragon freeze or dry equally well. Rinse and finely chop the herbs and put them into ice-tray cavities, making sure to pack the herb in tightly. Slowly and gently pour in water, making sure you don’t splash the herbs out of the tray. Place the trays in the freezer and allow the herbs to freeze solid. Empty the herb ice cubes out and store them in a labelled and dated plastic bag in the freezer. To use, drop the frozen herb into the soup, stew or sauce during cooking.
Don’t Forget Mulch beds that will be left empty over winter. Mulch protects micro soil organisms from the cold.