Freezer Filling

Despite it being the height of summer this weather hasn’t been helping the garden through what should be its period of peak productivity. Temperatures are lower than they should be and there’s little sunlight around at present. But in the face of pouring rain for much of today it was important to get out and harvest various things which had ripened.

Gooseberries ripe for picking

Gooseberries ripe for picking

A humble gooseberry plant which I bought months ago from a discount store had done well in one of the borders and produced plenty of fruit along its rambling woody branches.

A good gooseberry harvest from a humble (cheap!) plant

A good gooseberry harvest from a humble (cheap!) plant

The fruit had been green for some time so I wasn’t sure how tart or acidic they’d be now that they’d turned purple. Munching one today, they’re sweet and juicy, with little acidity. That was a very pleasant surprise.

Just a few yards away the blueberry bush is in full production.

Blueberries turning blue

Blueberries turning blue

I picked a good haul of ripened berries and left lots of still green and pink fruit behind. Those will ripen in the coming weeks, to give a second harvest.

Picked, delicious and ready for freezing

Picked, delicious and ready for freezing

Between the berry plants are the two grape vines. It’s clear that they’re not going to produce as many grapes as usual this year. There are some, and I’ll likely get three or four bunches, but I’m sure I pruned the vines back a little too late, back at the start of February, and the vines had a bit too much work to do in the spring.

Grape vine leaves, particularly the young tender ones

Grape vine leaves, particularly the young tender ones

However they’re putting on lots of leafy growth right now so today I picked some of the leaves for making Greek dolmades, those tasty rolled up vine leaves stuffed with minced lamb, tomatoes, rice and so on. The bigger leaves can be tough so it’s important only to pick the softer younger ones to use as wraps.

Grape leaves blanched and stacked

Grape leaves blanched and stacked

Blanching them they instantly lose their bright green colour and turn a muddy brown. It’s a pity but not important as the taste and texture remain. The stack of leaves is now in the freezer, ready for a mezze feast, with Retsina of course, one day soon.

In the raised beds, all the pea plants had pods ready for picking. Most striking, and indeed most prolific, are the Blauwschokker plants.

Prolific Blauwschokker peas

Prolific Blauwschokker peas

Their deep purple pods have been plentiful and I picked lots of them today. Their neighbours are more traditional Kelvedon Wonder plants, which yielded a worthwhile amount but i think they’ve been held back slightly by being in the shade of the tall German plants.

Bottom left: mangetout as they're intended. Right: what they grow into when left to grow.

Bottom left: mangetout as they’re intended. Right: what they grow into when left to grow.

Nearby, some Oregon Sugar Pod mangetout plants had filled out into full pods of peas while we were on holiday, so I picked those too. That made for three bags of peas to be frozen.

Three varieties, each with its own taste and texture

Three varieties, each with its own taste and texture

Is it a bit OCD to want a range of varieties of peas in the freezer, picking the one that best suits the meal you’re cooking? Maybe I need help.

Dried out Douce Provence peas, which I'll sow for next year's crop

Dried out Douce Provence peas, which I’ll sow for next year’s crop

There were also some dried-out pods left on the over-wintered Douce Provence plant so I’ll keep those safe and dry to sow later in the year. Isn’t seed saving wonderful? They say peas are one of the best vegetables for saving as they self pollinate, so there’s no risk of varieties getting cross pollinated and losing their character. I’ll certainly be saving peas and anything else I can this year.

I took delivery of a new / additional freezer this weekend, exclusively to store some of this home-grown produce. After 36 hours it’s already three-quarters full.  We’re going to need a bigger kitchen!

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