The Canny Gardener

how to be a smart gardener


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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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The flower of the moment

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Elderflower shrubs and trees start flowering mid May- this year, the errant summer has made this a bit later.  These grow wild almost everywhere and also in parks.  Its funny since I have become aware of elderflowers, I now find them everywhere.  The photo above shows one next to a railway line.  I choose flowers in full bloom, clipped during midday sun and from places sheltered from traffic fumes and other pollutants because you should not wash them before use.  Be careful where you get them from and do it safely.  I do not clip flowers from people’s gardens unless given permission to do so.  Also, remember to shake out or cut out the masses of black bugs you may find before using them.

These year, I have found masses of elderflowers so have frozen two bag-fulls as it is best to use them fresh.  There are many recipes out on the internet on how to make elderflower cordial, so I won’t give any here.  Over the years, I have experimented with less sugar, cutting out on citric acid, using more flower heads, using frozen elderflower cordial, frozen flowers and using the leftovers (all with great success).  You have also do this.  But here are some things which I have discovered through experimentation I thought might be useful to share.  After all, this blog is about being a canny gardener and is not the same as others!

Can you use frozen elderflowers?

Yes, they are not as good as fresh ones, so I use a little bit more than when using fresh ones.  Last year, my frozen elderflowers got freezer frost yet I was able to make cordial in the height of winter from those.

Do I have to use citric acid to make the cordial?

Citric acid is often used for proper mineral supplementation of food, as an acidity regulator, and as a flavor compound.  Sometimes you may have difficulty finding it- many ethnic food shops keep it.  Most elderflower cordial recipes use it.  However, I have cut it out and increased the flower heads instead for more flavour. If you want more lemony flavour, try squeezing out the sliced lemons you used.

What can you do with the leftovers from the elderflower cordial making?

The sliced lemons make a great treat for children.  I also use them as garnish for ice-creams and drinks.  The used flower heads can be put in the compost heap.

The photos from this year’s elderflower making are belowImageImage