Thursday, August 8, 2013

Making the most of produce.

This week a friend and her husband came to visit bearing gifts. They have recently moved from a well established permaculture holding to a lovely cottage with three quarters of an acre of well set out but very overgrown gardens. The previous owner seemed to have a lot of things in pots, with duplicates of most things, far too many for our friend so she has passed some of these pots onto us, every plant that we are given helps to fill our garden which just two years ago was a field with nothing but grass. Our friend does however now have a polytunnel which is producing lots of salad crops and an abundance of Basil. She presented us with a large bag of this lovely herb, but far too much for immediate use.
                                           So what to do with all this Basil?
 A quick Google and I found out that it dries well, several methods were mentioned, drying it in the cooker on the lowest setting for four hours; too much energy use, drying it in the oven of the *range, again for four hours, or in the microwave for a few minutes. As we have a microwave I opted for this method.
 Lay out your herb on a paper plate or kitchen towel, place a microwave proof bowl with cold water in the microwave and your herb on its towel or plate and cook it for three minutes on high, remove from the oven, turn the herb around a little and give it a further one minute.
The kitchen smelt wonderful. I then placed the dried herb into an earthen ware pot with a cork lid.
              These pots we found in a local charity shop, just 50cents for five of them.
 Pleased with the results I then decided to dry more herbs for the winter months;  Oregano, Lemon Balm and Spearmint. I now have a jarful of each.
The Spearmint will be used for making mint sauce, or just as a mint tea, I have already frozen some for adding to ice cream.
* A range* for anyone not familiar with the term is a closed stove with an oven and a hot plate, they often have a boiler so do hot water and central heating as well as all your cooking. Wonderful things.
The veg garden is now producing an abundance for freezing, so much that we have to buy yet another freezer, thankfully they make very low energy ones now, this one consumes just 140kwh per year.
We were able to give our friends fresh beetroots, freshly dug potato's, fennel and some mange tout peas, plus of course a dozen eggs, it's wonderful having such a plentiful supply to exchange with others.
I have also been able to buy some organic raspberries for jam making at just two euro a lb, I bought three pounds , this gave us seven jars of lovely jam to enjoy during the winter months.
Today saw the last of this years seed planting, I have made a sowing of turnips and spinach in the keyhole garden, the earlier spinach ran to seed far too quickly as it was so hot and we had a lack of rain, but the soil is still warm so we hope we will get some from this sowing. The turnips were an after thought, it's not a veg I particularly like unlike swede which I love but it does have it's uses, especially in stews, being a rather bitter veg it helps to remove some of the sweetness from the other veg that I would use in a stew.
Simon has been busy, as ever, weeding, mowing and strimming, the grass doesn't stop growing.
                     He has also build another flower bed, and made a rose arch.

We found a rose that we had been reading about, on sale at half price in a local garden centre. The rose is named 'Kiftgate', it is the thug of the rose world, and grows to forty feet, so a wide and fairly tall arch needed to be constructed  if it's reputation is true, at the moment the longest branch is only six feet, we will see how long it takes before we are rueing the day that we bought it. The plus side is that it has the most superb perfume.
Sparky is now one of the family, all the cats like him, even Bubbles a very elderly and grumpy old lady. He is also overcoming his fear of Tess, another week and they should be friends.


  1. My neighbour has panted a kiftsgate rose but has planted it in an old agricultural water trough to try and restrict its growth seems to be working so far

    I too bought raspberries yesterday for jam making :)The herb drying in the microwave is just what I should be doing too, we use old sharwoods cook in sauce jars for storage (we are given them , i cook from scratch)they fit great on the spice rack that hubby built in the pantry

  2. Hello Anne,
    YOu have been so busy, everything looks so wonderful, it looks like your larder will be full this winter. Sparky is such a dear and fitting in so well.
    I am drying corn now but will put basil in the dehydrator this week. It was a good year for basil but not for potatoes. Many people lost their crops. I do love the picture of the snails, we don't see many here.
    Catnip seeds should be ready soon.

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