So, I was on the phone to my mum earlier and was wandering around the garden with a bowl and my secateurs. If something looked good, i’d pick it. I mean, that’s the whole thing about growing food – it’s good to eat!
A short time later I hung up the phone, wandered back inside, and realised that i’ve got a bunch of mint, 6 kaffir lime leaves, a green zebra tomato (which, if you’ve never eaten one you’re missing out!), over a dozen thai green chillies, over a dozen red chillies, 6 calamansi, and 10 yellow cherry tomatoes. What an unexpected score!
I often get asked what I do with my produce that I grow myself. I must admit, it really depends. I’m a terrible offender for not harvesting early enough. I look at things like Bok Choy or Silverbeet and think “that looks perfect – too perfect to touch” and so I leave it in the ground. Next thing I know, I go back a week later and it’s bolted. Dammit!
So, I’m getting better at just picking things when they look ready.
Most of the stuff I picked today is stuff that I’ve gotten used to dealing with over the years and I now know how to preserve. I’ll break them down to help give you all some ideas:
Mint and Calamansi
One of my favourite things in Summer is to sit out in the garden with a big pitcher of iced flavoured water. Inevitably, my water will contain both mint and calamansi because they are both so refreshing. When I have an overflow of both of these, I make ice blocks. The recipe can be found here, but basically it’s just freezing calamansi juice with chopped mint. That way, year round, you can enjoy the flavour!
This year I don’t have enough tomatoes at once to do sauces etc… But i do get about 5-10 tomatoes every few days. This year my biggest producer is the cherry tomatoes so, to be honest, the tomatoes I pick rarely last the day. If they survive the harvest (let’s face it, some just go straight in my gob!), they’ll be washed and popped in the fridge. Because they’re so sweet and cool, I’ll often just open the fridge on the way past and pop one in my mouth.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
I harvest Kaffir Lime Leaves semi-regularly. Our tree isn’t going that well (it’s a dwarf tree planted in a poor spot that the possums know about) so we don’t get any real fruit off it. That said, I like to harvest the leaves before they go to waste. I’ll simply pick them, wash them and freeze them.
I often dry my chillies that i’m not planning on using straight away. However, since I’ve been so unwell in my pregnancy over the past 9 months, spicy food hasn’t really been an option. As such, we’ve still got HEAPS of dried chilli from last year. This year, to use up our chillies, I’ve decided to make a red curry paste (to freeze), green curry paste (to freeze) and am going to freeze the rest of the chillies as they are. I’ve never tried freezing chillies as a method of preserving them, but from the research I’ve done I believe that they can be frozen for up to a year (I never trust freezing anything for more than 3 months) and still maintain their integrity. As with any sort of preserving method, make sure you pick things in their peak condition as this way they are more likely to survive the process.
So… that’s it. A successful garden harvest and a good stock up for the freezer!
Tiny Change for the Day: If you’re growing fruits/vegetables/herbs, don’t hesitate to harvest them when they’re in peak condition. They’re only going to go downhill from here!