Just like squirrels burying their supply of nuts, it’s time for vegetable gardeners to bring in final harvests from many of the main growing season’s plants and store them for use over winter.
Today I cut down the big cordon tomato plants and brought in a big bowl of Tigerella, Red Cherry and Principe Borghese. While pondering what to do with them I shelled the dried French beans which I picked a few weeks ago.
Looking close-up at the beans had me wondering why they’re freckled like that. While soft and still on the plant they’re green. It’s only when drying out that they take on their combat-like camouflage.
Everything in nature seems to have a reason behind it, whether it’s a flower’s dazzling pattern designed to attract bees or a rose’s thorns designed to fend off predators. The rationale for speckled beans eludes me for now but I’m sure there’ll be one.
A few weeks ago I hung up a big bunch of Thai Basil to dry out. Today it seemed to have got nice and crispy so I picked off all the crinkly leaves and stored them in a Schwarz jar.
While packing them in it was pleasantly clear that the liquorice-like aroma survives drying, which isn’t always the case with herbs. The jar is now stored with others in a dark box to reduce flavour fade.
Next it was time to tidy up the garlic which came out of one of the raised beds at the end of July. The whole plants had been laid out to dry ever since and now needed their leaves and roots trimming off.
Of the two varieties, the purple-hued hardneck Marco had performed better than the softneck Germidour, the latter coming from the crop I grew in 2015. I’ll take a lesson from that and conclude that it’s best to start with fresh professionally-raised garlic each year. I’ll very shortly be planting this year’s cloves: a mix of Red Duke, Bohemian rose and Mikulov – each a new variety to me so full of interest and promise.
Before I put the garlic away in its storage bag the perfect use for those tomatoes from earlier presented itself. An oven pre-heated to a moderate 170c and a good slug of olive oil in a dish, then roughly chopped tomatoes, a few crushed cloves of garlic, some salt, pepper and lots of oregano.
Two hours later the most intense oven-roasted tomatoes you could wish for. The process just seems to concentrate the flavour and the delicious result could be spread onto warm bread, mixed into pasta or could help fill a savoury tart. It’s gone into bags in the freezer for now, minus a few spoonfuls which .. err .. got lost somewhere (wipes lips).
Still out in the garden growing strongly are calabrese, kale, lettuces, pak choi, chard and parsnips. Oh and herbs too. Even once it starts to get properly wintry cold it’ll be a pleasure to keep popping out for the latest crop.