Harvesting the fruits (and vegetables) of my labours

Wednesday 22 August 2012
Harvest may be ever so slightly an exaggeration.  Alas our fruit and veggie patch has been a bit of a failure this year  Not sure if it was the weather, or old seeds or what but pretty much nothing grew.  No carrots, peas or leeks even germinated. The only real runaway successes have been potatoes, kale and rhubarb.

The strawberries have been growing vigorously but seem to be putting all their efforts into producing runners instead of fruit.  I've just Googled this and discovered that I should have been cutting them off to ensure that I don't loose fruit production on the mother plant. Whoops #strawberryfail  The solitary blackcurrant bush looked like it might yield enough for a single pot of jam but when I went to pick some I quickly realised that I was about a week too late.  Even the apple tree which had a bumper crop last year is looking rather underwhelming. I've still got a chilli plant in the greenhouse that looks promising with fruits beginning to form so a batch of Sweet Chilli Jam may still be on the cards.

The potatoes are easy to use up and will sadly be gone before I know it.  There's nothing quite like the taste of your first boiling of home grown tatties with a knob of butter. Once they're gone I'll revert to buying them from Fernieflatt Farm in Kineff who provide a local delivery service. I always buy my eggs from them too laid by Black Rock Hens with spacious fields and sheds to roam in. The huge eggs have amazingly vivid yellow yolks with a wonderful taste and occasionally there is the added excitement of a double yolker. Low food miles, supporting local farmers and free range. Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall would be proud of me!

The abundance of Kale is a bit more tricky as its not the most sexy of vegetables. However I can thoroughly recommend it simply stir fried in a splash of Rapeseed Oil infused with Garlic from Mackintosh of Glendaveny. This is my all time favourite oil for stir frying anything! Not sure what else I'm going to do with my Kale bounty but a quick Google revealed a host of ideas including a dedicated website. www.discoverkale.co.uk  Who knew there was a whole world of kale out there just waiting to be discovered?!

The Rhubarb just keeps growing and growing. The more I cut off the more it produces. I've had a pretty constant supply of Crumbles over the Summer but hadn't yet got round to any preserving however inspired by the Industrial Tent at Glenbervie I wanted to give Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam a try. The meagre harvest of my own strawberries meant that a fruit picking trip was in order so with boy and girl in tow we headed to Easter Anguston Farm

This is a hidden treasure of Deeside which supports training for people with learning disabilities. There's a cafe, kids play area, garden centre, wildlife trails and an assortment of animals in addition to pick your own fruit. The strawberries are grown at eye level in a pollytunnel which makes for less back breaking picking but unfortunately we had to battle with a plethora of wasps attacking the Strawberries and a forest of nettles surrounding the raspberry canes. Much stinging occurred.

The rasps have gone in the freezer for another day but the Strawberries have been combined with my own glut of rhubarb to create my first ever attempt at Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam. Not sure if it's worthy of any prizes but it certainly smelt amazing whilst bubbling away on the hob.  I followed a recipie in my trusty copy of the "Best Kept Secrets of the Women's Institute Jams, Pickles and Chutneys"  Secretly I would LOVE to join the WI. Jam I can do but alas I don't know the words to Jerusalem.  There was a lot of scum which the usual knob of butter didn't shift so I ended up skimming it off. Not sure if there was something else I could have done to prevent it?

The end result was a bountiful 13 jars.  Is there anything more satisfying than seeing all your own preserves lined up and sealed with their waxed discs and cellophane lids? OK just me on that one then... 

Boy was keen to get stuck in but as usual girl was more suspicious. Gentle persuasion encouraged her to try some on a pancake and it was declared a hit with a second pancake and slice of toast following close on the heels. Its a wee bit on the runny side to be honest but tastes great! I'd thought that the Rhubarb would have enough pectin to provide a reasonable set so only used half jam sugar and half granulated - my bad.

Fingers crossed there's not a wasp or nettle leaf lurking anywhere...

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