The Canny Gardener

how to be a smart gardener


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Late harvests

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Perhaps it is climate change, perhaps it is a surprise gift, and perhaps it is a sign of my increasing gardening skills- I have these lovely tomatoes still growing in their glorious reds and sunny yellows brightening up my garden.  Some salad leaves are still growing along with the nasturtiums.  So here is my lovely late summer, near autumn salad, simply served with a splash of olive oil and served with love- delicious!


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Freezer tricks

My last post was about summer abundance and how to cook with unripe or extra produce from your garden.  Well, if you don’t want to cook it, you can also freeze it.  In the UK, about 800,000 tonnes of food valued at £2 billion is thrown away annually- 30% of the food thrown away is perfectly usable but we buy too much and throw it.  Six steps to reducing food waste are-

  1. Plan ahead for the week, on a daily basis.  Use coupons and reduced price food wisely- don’t buy reduced price food just because it is reduced and give away coupons you won’t use.
  2. Buy what you need or what you will definitely eat (do try a new food once in awhile!).  Do not be tempted by BOGOFs and money off coupons unless they are about what you would buy anyway.
  3. Store food correctly at the right temperature and place- many food such as bananas and avocados do not need to be stored in the refrigerators.
  4. Cook the right amount. I use things like yoghurt and fruit to supplement if one person says they are hungrier that particular day rather than making more food.
  5. Store leftovers for later use.
  6. If you really must throw, then see if you can compost it.  Many food items such as meat can’t be composted.  Some food can be eaten by pets and animals such as pigs but again check before giving it to them.

About £860 million worth of food is stored in freezers.  We could do more.  Saving food not only saves the planet by keeping down the greenhouse gases but also saves us money.  Freeze food before it goes off and bought food can be frozen on the day of purchase.  Some tips-

  • Check your freezer is below 5C- your chicken and greens will last three days longer.
  • Bread gets stale in the fridge six times faster, so divide your bread and store excess in the freezer.  You can easily defrost it by leaving it out or using the microwave.
  • You can also divide other food into smaller portions for freezing.  Ice cube trays are handy for freezing juices, milk, tomato sauce, herbs into small portions that can used as needed.
  • Cut vegetables into pieces and freeze- these are very handy for quick stir fries.
  • You can also freeze eggs, cheese, chopped bananas, summer fruits and cakes.


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Summer abundance chutney

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I returned from a three week holiday to find that there had been storms in the UK and my little garden was a little wrecked.  My prized crop of italian plum tomatoes which had not ripened were on the deck and there were raspberries which needed to be eaten, otherwise they’d go off. Well, we ate as many raspberries we could and then I thought about making a chutney with the rest.  Chutneys which originate from India are an accompaniment to a main meal, eaten at the end.  In the West, chutneys are eaten with crisp breads, cheese, salad and meats- just about anything.

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This is an easy recipe which can be adjusted to any amount of fruit lying around (which is what you see in the second photo of unripe tomatoes and raspberries).  I used a tablespoon of sunflower oil and put it on medium heat.  When the oil was ready, I threw in a pinch each of cumin and fenugreek seeds; and two birds’eyes chillies until the cumin seeds ‘swelled up’. Then I put the cut tomatoes and whole raspberries in.  When they softened, I added molasses- one and half tablespoon.  Molasses are a good alternative to white sugar as they contain fibres, minerals and iron and more, see link below-

http://greenlitebites.com/2010/11/11/sweetener-comparisons-honey-agave-molasses-sugar-maple-syrup/

Molasses are used in traditional Indian cooking, sugar being an unknown ingredient.  I also added a pinch of turmeric.  After less than 15 minutes, the chutney was ready. With a bit of zing- this is a delicious chutney!

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