Monday 19 March 2018

Harvest dinners

Just a little inspiration will help you to use up all those homegrown fruit and veggies

Just a little inspiration will help you to use up all those homegrown fruit and veggies
Just a little inspiration will help you to use up all those homegrown fruit and veggies

Georgina Campbell

Full-on kitchen gardening has been a new experience for thousands of allotment virgins this year, and it's a fair bet that a good few are wondering what on earth to do with this sudden abundance of food.

There are quite a few things you can do with excess fruit and vegetables, and some of them could make you money. Not a lot, perhaps, but enough to pay for the seeds and sundries you'll need to get going again next season.

You can give surplus produce away, of course, if you don't need the money -- perhaps in exchange for someone keeping an eye on things when you have to be away.

Local shops are usually pleased to have garden produce, and customers love the idea that it's come from close by. There shouldn't be any pressure to provide regular amounts and you'll get something for it. The small amounts involved will be an education if you've never given a lot of thought to how much (or little) farmers are paid.

Or you might band together with other allotment growers and take a stall at a farmers' market, which you could take turns to attend. This could be fun, and you might even branch out into other produce -- home baking, say -- when the fresh fruit and veg is in shorter supply.

Then there's the sensible option of preserving the harvest in various ways for use over the winter: freezing is often easiest (but not suitable for all products), and there are the more traditional options of bottling, pickling, making jams and chutneys etc -- all very satisfying if you have time, and lovely to have through the year for small presents, as well as your own use.

You can also be a bit more imaginative about what you cook, and extend your repertoire of everyday dishes to make sure they use up loads of that lovely produce you've sown, tended and harvested so carefully.

If inspiration is needed, help is at hand in the shape of a cookbook that's just about to hit the bookshops: 'Food From Plenty: Good Food Made From the Plentiful, the Seasonal and the Leftover' (Mitchell Beazley, hardback, stg£20), by Diana Henry, the Irish-born, London-based cookery writer who has twice been named the UK Guild of Food Writers' Cookery Writer of the Year (2007 and 2009).

Diana has her finger firmly on the pulse of current culinary trends and has a very sure sense of style.

If you need to be convinced that the age of poshed-up food is over, just take a look at the rustic styling of Jonathan Lovekin's photography -- the food is plainly delicious but, with splashes and spills, it's like a home kitchen.

Anyway, it's all about the pleasure of enjoying good food without waste, eating seasonally, caring about food "in a more thoughtful way that will in turn increase the goodness we receive from it", and being resourceful.

Diana offers more than 300 very do-able dishes with influences from all over the globe, including slow-roasted meats and other delicious, cost-conscious dishes.

The dishes I've chosen are in season and use up home-grown produce, in-cluding runner beans. There's no better crop for giving value for space in the garden and they go with almost everything.

Irish Independent

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