There’s always a moment in spring, when gardeners sow or plant too much. The courgettes or runner bean seedlings haven’t done quite as well as you thought, so you’ll sow another batch ‘just in case’ – and maybe another one just for luck. Before you know it, come August there’s dozens of courgettes-come-marrows and giant beans all ready to harvest at the same time!
With the gardener’s inbuilt inability to discard anything that’s been loving grown, an epic blanching and freezing session takes place to save the perishables – but there’s only so much one fridge can take. Here, I ask gardeners, chefs, cooks and food bloggers to share some of their recipes, tips, and ‘glut reactions’ to the harvest festival…
1. Pickle it
Onions, beetroot, cauliflower and courgettes all lend themselves to pickling. All you need is sterilized jars and a vinegar-based pickling brine to dunk them into.
“For many years I would groan at the news that we were having runner beans for supper – that is until I tried them pickled,” says cook and food writer Alexandra Dudley. “It was a completely new experience – tangy and flavourful with all the stringiness gone – and absolutely delicious!
“Simply blanch 500g runner beans (chopped into 2cm lengths) for 2-3 minutes before plunging them into ice cold water to retain their crunch, and drain on a tea towel. Place 1 finely chopped chilli, 1tsp sugar, 1tsp black peppercorns, 1/2tsp coriander and 1/2tsp fennel seed, a pinch of chilli flakes, 2 bay leaves and 1tsp salt into 200ml water into a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Place the beans lengthways into your jar and pack tightly. Pour over the brine so the beans are covered but the brine is 5mm below the rim. Seal and leave to marinade for two weeks before enjoying.”
2. Share it
Sign up to a food-sharing scheme such as Foodshare, or download the Olio app, and you could divide you surplus harvests among local people or charities looking for some homegrown flavour. Or, why not develop a ‘glut hut’ at your local allotment or school where spare produce can be picked up for free.
3. Ferment it
“Cabbage is often overlooked and under appreciated but it’s actually super versatile, cost effective and delicious – and the base for my favourite ferment,” says Niki Webster, founder of vegan recipe blog Rebel Recipes. “Wash and slice 1 cabbage into small pieces and massage 1tsp salt into it, to soften. Make a kimchi paste by adding the following to a food processor and blitzing: ½ chopped red pepper, 1tbsp minced ginger, 3 cloves garlic, 1 sliced spring onion, 1-2tsp chilli flakes, 1tsp smoked paprika, 2tsp maple syrup, 1tsp sea salt and 1tsp miso paste.
“Mix into the cabbage and firmly pack into a sterilised jar. Add any brine from the mixing bowl and make sure the cabbage is completely submerged, allowing for a couple of inches at the top of the jar. Secure with a lid and store away from sunlight for 2-3 days. Remove the lid once a day to allow gasses to be released. Ensure the cabbage is always covered (you can add a little water). Ferment for at least 4-5 days. The taste gets stronger so keep testing it until you like the flavour. It can be so stored in the fridge for a few months.”
4. Dip it
Blitz veg with cheese, nuts and oil and you can turn it into hummus. Chef Christopher Trotter, author of a series of glut-busting cookery books Beetroot, Courgette, Kale, Carrot and Cauliflower, likes to use courgettes.
“Blitz 20g dried apricots with 7tbsp rapeseed oil and 2tbsp lemon juice in a food processor for 2 minutes,” he says. “Add 1 large courgette, 1 clove garlic, a pinch of sea salt, ground black pepper to taste, 1tsp pomegranate molasses and 1tsp cumin and blend until smooth.”
5. Sell it
While you cannot trade from an allotment, you are allowed to sell your produce off-site. Look for friendly farmers’ markets, farm shops or food markets such as Crystal Palace Food Market, which allows gardeners and allotment growers to sell surplus crops.
6. Blend it
Space-saving soups are a great way to blitz lots of veg in one go, and they can be stored for long periods. Kitchen gardener Kathy Slack, food blogger at Gluts and Gluttony and host of seasonal supper clubs and cookery classes in the Cotswolds, says a glut makes her more inventive.
“I love growing veg because seeing something grow from nothing is magical – but mainly, I love it because I’m greedy and it means I’m never short of something to cook!” she says Kathy. “I make ‘tomato water’ as a starter or pre-dinner snack – and best of all, it uses around 600g of cherry tomatoes, or halved larger varieties. Put them in a food processor and pulse until you have a lumpy mush, then line a fine sieve with a clean muslin cloth and set it over a large bowl. Very gently, pour the mixture into the sieve. Leave to drip slowly through for a few hours. (If you go too quickly, the juice underneath will go cloudy).
“Pour over ice into glasses and serve immediately, or serve warm with a few ravioli or tortellini floating it. You can also put it in the freezer, roughing it up with a fork every 45 mins as it freezes to create a delicious tomato granita.”
7. Drink it
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of collecting a punnet of raspberries at the allotment, only to find them mushed up once you get home – this Raspberry Bellini from Alexandra Dudley is for you!
“Make a puree by placing 200g raspberries in a small saucepan with 1tbsp caster sugar and a splash of water, and simmer until broken down,” she says. “Run the cooked raspberries through a sieve into a bowl, discarding the seeds and chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Place 1tbsp of the raspberry puree in the bottom of a tall glass and top with Champagne or sparkling wine. Finish with a frozen raspberry.”
8. Peel it
Edinburgh chef Scott Smith uses foraged food and fresh pickings from his restaurant garden but never wastes the peelings. “We dry them to make flavoured salt or add them to teas,” says Scott, chef patron at Fhior. “Place the veg peelings in a rack in an oven at a really low temperature – a lot of modern ovens have 50 degree settings or plate warming drawer – and leave for three hours to dry out. Blend in a food processor and mix this through sea salt, which can be used to season the vegetable before serving and increases the flavour. Use the same method with fruit peelings but infuse them in tea.”
9. Lick it
While your excess fruit crop is an easy fit for a sorbet or ice-cream – you might want to consider chilling out vegetables such as pea and beetroot too!
“Chocolate and beetroot go really nicely together,” says chef Christopher. “Heat 200ml whole milk with 3 cardamom pods to just below boiling and set aside. Whisk 4 egg yolks in a bowl with 100g caster sugar until pale, then whisk in the milk. Return the liquid to the pan and warm over a gentle heat, stirring to create a custard, and set aside. Melt 100g dark chocolate in a ban Marie and stir into the custard. Puree 300g roasted beetroot with 100ml whole milk and add to the chocolate custard. Strain through a sieve and cool, then freeze.
10. Think outside the veg box…
Chard can easily produce thick stems or go to seed over the summer – but sixth generation farmer and former Stein’s head-chef Ross Geach has come up with an inventive way to use it.
“Rhubchard! This recipe started off as a joke between me and Jack Stein, but I promised him it would work!” says Geach from Padstow Kitchen Garden in Cornwall. “You think you are eating rhubarb but there isn’t that tart flavour, instead it’s slightly more earthy.
“Place 750g of chopped chard stalks into a medium-sized saucepan with the zest and juice of 1 large orange, 100g caster sugar, 2tbsp water and 2 pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes until the chard is soft and cooked but still holds its shape. Add a handful of sweet garden herbs such as mint or lemon verbena and stir. I’ve served this with a lemon verbena possett, yoghurt and ice-cream. Use more liquor and store it in Kilner jars as a preserve.”
Love this, try growing your own pesto!