Fruit and vegetables are bursting forth. Valerie O’Connor looks at the ways to make the most of this time of year
IT’S Christmas every day in the garden right now, even though the weather is wildly erratic (what’s new?), it’s perfect for growing as the crops get the living daylights watered out of them at night and sometimes during the day and then there’s plenty of blasts of sunshine too.
As a newbie to growing in a glasshouse, I’m spoiled rotten and want for nothing except a few things to go with the veggies and fruits that are bursting forth — from figs to tomatoes and the endless profusion of greens. I think I’ve over charded though, so need a break from that.
This is the time of year for your raw veg, so important for your amino acids and they are literally there for the taking right now. If you don’t grow food at home, get the best stuff you can from a local farmers market or co-op and support the little guys and gals — growing to supply is back-breaking work and this is the season to make the proverbial hay, while the sun shines.
If you planted a lot of peas and beans early on, like I did, then you’ll either have a freezer full of them or won’t want to see another pea for a long time. Pea plants will need to be pulled up now and any pods you have, left to dry on the stalks and the peas inside can be replanted for a fresh crop.
Each pea seed will make far more peas of course, so you can save the dried seeds in envelopes and keep them away from moisture, give them to friends and store some, clearly labelled for planting next year. To save seeds from peas and bean plants, just let the pods dry out on the plant, if you can’t wait for the whole plant to dry out as you want to plant something else in that space, pull up the plant and bring it indoors, turn it upside-down and hang it somewhere warm for a few days with some newspaper on the floor to catch runaways, then store the seeds when you harvest them. The seeds need to be really dry and hard for saving, almost like ceramic beans. Alternatively take the peas out of the dried pods as you see them, dry and harden and save them.
Bean seeds can be saved in the same ways. If you’re over beaned or just don’t really like the taste of bean pods, runner or other wise, you can harvest the fresh beans inside the pods and cook them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. It never occured to me, in all the time I open bags of beans (mostly imported), that the beans were grown and picked, then podded, dried, and put in bags, and how many people and air miles it took for that to happen. When you pod some beans as I have done here with the Cherokee Trail of Tears, (so called as this was a plant that helped to barely sustain the tribe), you can see how few beans I got from about 8 pods, so I was keen to do something nice with them.
Tomatoes are also taking over the planet right now, but more on that next week. For now, as the food in my basket dictated, I’m sharing the recipe that I made up when we left the garden with all these goodies to feast on. For more seed saving madness be sure to check out the Seedsavers open day at the end of August; info is below.
Stuffed Tomatoes with millet and beans
Millet is a great grain that really bulks up and absorbs flavours like mushroom and olives. You can make up any stuffing you like of course and if you are a cheese eater, a bit of feta is never lost in a tomato. Preheat the oven to 180degreesC
1 large beefsteak tomato with a good flavour per person
1 cup millet grain - brown basmati rice also works well
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
pinch chili flakes
Beans, half a tin of black beans rinsed or whatever you’ve got from the garden
Hand-full of fresh parsley
Hand-full of black olives, pitted and chopped
Fry up the onion in a little oil to soften and add the garlic and chili and give it a stir.
Cut the lids off the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds etc and add this to the pot.
Throw in the millet and stir to coat it and add 2.5 cups of boiled water to the pan and a pinch of salt, bring to a boil and then put a lid on it, reduce the heat to very low, and then leave the pot covered to steam for twenty minutes.
Remove the lid, and fire in the beans, olives and parsley, stir it up and leave for minutes to let any excess moisture evaporate
Now get your tomatoes in a nice dish that holds them snugly as they will collapse. Spoon the millet mixture into the fruits and lay the lids on top of them loosely, drizzle over some olive oil and pop the dish in the oven to cook for 30 minutes or so until they are nice and crinkly.
Any leftover millet mix can be shaped into patties and put in the oven on a tray at the same time, they will get nice and crispy.
I made a basic chard salad to go with this of shredded chard leaves and stalks, simply dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper. A feast fit for a hungry gardener. What you do while it’s in the oven is your business!
Irish Seedsavers Open Day
The folks at Irish Seedsavers continue to do great work, not just saving precious seed from heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables but, more interestingly they have been growing some rare wheat varieties that are thriving, as well as oats and flax.
The open day on Sunday August 27, is a great opportunity to see their important work and support an essential part of our past for our future’s food.
Guest speakers are Madeline McKeever from Brown Envelope Seeds, Duncan Stewart off the telly and local growing guru Jim Cronin, who will demonstrate a no-dig growing method.
With yummy food from their café and pizza from the cob oven, this is a grand day out for newbies and experienced greenies interested in getting down and dirty in the soil.
Irish Seedsavers, Scariff, Co.Clare www.irishseedsavers.ie
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