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Dublin: 14 °C Monday 23 September, 2019
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From the Garden: What to do when you have an abundance of vegetables

Large amounts of veg can be used up and kept for later in many ways.

Michael Kelly Grower

THE VEGETABLE PATCH feels like a hard task master right about now, churning out seemingly endless gluts of produce.

There’s a level on which I feel grateful for this abundance, particularly when it’s all laid out in big beautiful trays, buckets or bowls.

But there’s another level in which I feel like saying ‘enough already’. Particularly when said trays, buckets or bowls of produce have been hanging around the kitchen for three days and I know I have to do something with them.

Specifically, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and French beans (or green beans) are unwaveringly relentless at the moment and no amount of chutneys, spiralised veg, sauces or freezing seems to get to the bottom of them.

The porch (a cool place that’s ideal for storing veg) is full of produce at the moment and I know that after I finish writing this, I should really ‘saucify’ another six or seven baking trays of tomatoes for the freezer.

And after that, I should really go out and harvest another massive batch of tomatoes that need picking too. By the way, if ‘saucify’ is not a word, it totally should be.

There is a simple way to reduce the incessant flow of vegetables, and that’s to sow less of them.

But sowing less of things is not something that I would ever really consider. I know if I did that, I would just be annoyed with myself some time after Christmas when I go hunting in the freezer for a lovely home-grown tomato sauce for a pizza and see that we’ve run out.

But I reserve the right to whinge and moan a little at this time of the year.

Anyway, there are obvious upsides to all the work, albeit that the gratification is somewhat delayed.

At last count, there are now 40 tubs of tomato passata in the freezer which should take us well into the late spring of next year (using one a week).

Mrs Kelly just finished making a batch of cucumber pickle which is one of the handiest sandwich fillers known to man. If there is a better accompaniment to a pair of good quality sausages and a decent Waterford blaa, I’ve yet to find it.

We’re also big into spiralising the courgettes. Spiralising gets dismissed regularly as a rather laughable, hipster fad, which is unfair.

It’s actually unbeatable as a way to use up serious quantities of courgettes (and there are always serious quantities of courgettes). Tonight’s dinner of ‘courgetti’ with, you’ve guessed it, tomato sauce, will see our family of four munch through two huge courgettes.

We’re also freezing French beans like there’s a flood, war or some other class of pestilence coming down the tracks.

30-odd bags of them in the freezer will join many a quiche, stir-fry or Sunday roast well into next year.

It’s worth considering amidst the belly-aching, that though the harvest currently seems endless, there will of course be an end at some point and we will rue that day when it comes.

The Basics – How to Save Tomato Seeds

If you had a variety of tomato that was a particular success this year, why not try saving the seeds from the tomatoes to grow next year’s plants?

Save the seeds from open-pollinated varieties of tomatoes only, and not hybrids. When saving seeds, think the theory of evolution and selective breeding – you want to replicate only the strongest of tomatoes.

So only save seeds from the very biggest and best of your tomatoes. The tomatoes you select should be ripe but not overripe.

Cut the tomato in half and squeeze the contents (seeds, gel and juice – not flesh) into a cup or container and label the cup with the variety of tomato.

Half-fill the cup with water.

After a few days a mould will form on the water which is a sign that the seed coating has dissolved.

The mould will also kill off any seed-born diseases that may be in the seed. Pour off the water and any floating seeds (these are duds that wont germinate).

The good seeds should be on the bottom of the cup. Rinse the seeds under a cold tap in a very fine mesh strainer (like a tea strainer).

Put the seeds in a single layer on a paper plate or a regular plate with some kitchen roll on it. 

You want them to dry quickly. Leave for a few days. Bag them up in a labeled envelope and store them somewhere cool (or refrigerate) until next spring.

Recipe of the Week – My Go-To Tomato Sauce Recipe

We’re in full-on tomato glut territory at the moment, and so it’s time to pull out the old tomato sauce/passata recipe.

We get tubs of this sauce in to the freezer from where they can be plucked in the dreary winter months to form the base for soups, stews and casseroles, pizzas and pastas.

It’s designed to be quick and straight-forward and I don’t pay too close attention to how much of each ingredient goes in.

Just bung them in to a baking tray, season and add some oil. Bake in the oven, then blitz, cool and freeze. Simple.

Ingredients:

Per baking tray:

  • Tomatoes to fill the base of the tray, halved
  • A small courgette, roughly chopped
  • An onion, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, skin removed
  • Some fresh herbs – sprig of rosemary, thyme, parsley etc
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning 

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Half (or quarter if very large) the tomatoes and put them in to an appropriate sized baking tray. Use several trays if you have a large quantity. You are aiming to fill the base of the tray but leave enough room to add the other veg.

Roughly chop the courgette and onion and add to the tray.

Roughly mash the garlic cloves and add them to the tray with the herbs.

Season well and add a good lug of oil.

Mix it all together with your hands to coat the veg in seasoning and oil.

Put in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

Allow to cool completely.

Blitz with a hand blender to a smooth, saucy consistency (or leave a little chunkier if you prefer).

Bag up in to Tupperware tubs and put in the freezer.

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

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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