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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 18 September, 2019
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From the Garden: Salvaging the last beets of the season and putting them in a kraut

Anyone growing beets will be preparing them for harvest next month.

Michael Kelly Grower

AFTER A LONG season, I took out the climbing French beans in the big tunnel this week to make way for the final beetroot crop of the year.

I’m hoping that I have not left it too late for them to succeed. I sowed them in late July in module trays, but they should really have been planted out about two weeks ago.

They are generally sown in July and harvested for storage in October. To be on the safe side, I decided this week to plant them in the polytunnel rather than outside. I hope that the little bit of extra warmth will give them the best shot at producing a decent crop by October.

I’ve started closing up the polytunnel at night to retain heat. The climbing French beans performed really well again this year. It always amazes me how well they do in the tunnel, and just how prolific they are. I cut back the amount I sowed this year because we had way too many beans last year.

But even with two relatively short rows this year – maybe three metres long – we still had more beans than we could handle. That was despite eating lots of them fresh ourselves, putting about 20 bags of them into the freezer and encouraging our French bean-loving neighbours to help themselves.

At this time of the year, the plants start to go over, the leaves start to go yellow and the remaining beans are getting a little big and stringy.

They are not as nice to eat at this stage as they were back in early summer. Taking down the plants can be a laborious affair given they’ve wrapped themselves around twine on their way to growing up to 10ft tall.

Once I’ve managed to detangle them, I chop up the plants before putting them on the compost heap. Any straggler beans are re-routed to the kitchen. 

The tomatoes and cucumbers are still hyper-abundant and we are just about keeping up with them as there are two harvests a week.

We are still busy making tomato sauces for the freezer (see previous columns for my tomato sauce recipe).

This week I also did a cheat’s version of sun-dried tomatoes with a large harvest of cherry Sungold tomatoes by baking them for an hour and a half in a low oven at 135 degrees Celsius (halve the tomatoes first, and sprinkle with oil and seasoning).

They will store in the fridge for a week or so in a sealed tub and they are brilliant for school lunch snacks. 

This week I also harvested red cabbages for the first time this year. I like growing red cabbages – the densely packed heads seem more resistant to slug damage.

They make a lovely slaw too – I put two of them in to the red sauerkraut recipe below.

Red sauerkraut is called rotkraut in Germany, which doesn’t sound like the most appetizing dish it has to be said. With its proper pronunciation ‘rote kraut’ it starts to make sense – rot is the German word for red.   

I’m a little obsessed with sauerkraut making this year and there are various Kilner jars bubbling away in the corner of the kitchen.

The Basics – Harvesting Celery 

If you sowed celery earlier in the year, they should be ready now. Harvest celery by cutting at ground level – make sure that you do so in such a way as to keep the stems together.

Celery will keep for a number of weeks in the fridge and will in fact continue to blanch once picked. Wash in cold water and dry it carefully before putting away in the fridge.

You can also harvest individual stems (rather than the whole plant) if you wish. 

The great issue for celery lovers is how to preserve the crop – it doesn’t store well in the ground particularly after the first frosts and it doesn’t store well out of the ground either.

Probably the best method of preserving celery is to freeze it – it freezes relatively well but will lose some of its crispness when thawed out. It’s only really usable in soups and stews as opposed to fresh.

Recipe of the Week – Beet Apple Ginger Red Kraut

This is a recipe from farmsteady.com.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head red cabbage
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 beet, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, freshly grated 

Directions:

Remove and discard any outer damaged or wilted leaves from the cabbage. Reserve one large leaf.

Quarter the cabbage and remove the core.

Cut remaining cabbage into thin ribbons.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your shredded cabbage and salt.

Massage the salt into your cabbage for 8-10 minutes, cabbage will soften and release liquid.

Add in beet, apple and ginger. Massage for an additional 1-2 minutes to combine.

Pack the cabbage into your fermentation jar tightly using your hands and pressing down with your fist.

Add all liquid released from the cabbage.

Trim the reserved cabbage leaf into a circle (you can use the base of jar or the lid as a guide).

Place on top of the packed cabbage and then add the fermentation weight.

You want the packed cabbage to be completely submerged when weighted.

If liquid levels are low you can top with a brine by dissolving 1 teaspoon salt to 1 cup water. 

Top with lid and airlock.

Let ferment for 1 week at room temperature out of direct sunlight.

Transfer finished kraut to jars and move to the refrigerator.

Kraut will keep refrigerated for at least two months. 

Michael Kelly is an author, broadcaster and founder of GIY.  

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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