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Grow It Yourself - September

Pears

I was about 5 hours in to my monster 8-hour ‘pickle-athon’ and up to my neck in diced fruit, veg and vinegar syrups. I had just peeled, cored and chopped 2kg of pears (I didn’t count how many pears that is, but it’s a lot), and a pan of boiling, sugary stickiness had just overflowed on the stove. The kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it. I was tired, cranky, sweaty and hungry (ironic, given that I was surrounded by mounds of food).

It was at that moment that Mrs Kelly chose to arrive in from the garden with another enormous bucket of windfall pears and a big smile on her face. “Look what else I found,” she said, beaming at what was surely an entire winter’s supply of overripe fruit. “That’s great,” I deadpanned, without much conviction, before turning away and muttering something unprintable.

We are in serious glut territory in our garden at the moment and suspended in that perilous no-man’s land between abundance and waste. So you have to move fast - do something with the produce so you can eat it later in the year, or lose them forever to the compost heap. That means making a conscious decision to dedicate the time required to make a jam, pickle or chutney, or whatever other preserving recipes you have in your arsenal.

With a large stack of oversized cucumbers I made a zingy cucumber and onion pickle. Five large beetroot became a sweet beetroot marmalade. A big bucket of pears were prepared and then boiled in a spicey syrup of white wine vinegar and sugar before being popped in to warm kilner jars.

So, here’s what I was thinking last night as I went to bed in a vinegar-fume fug. (1) When it comes to getting produce in to “storage” for the winter, we need to put aside any romantic notions about how the hours spent peeling, dicing and chopping will make you a better person. Let’s be honest, it’s just hard bloody work. (2) It is relentless at this time of the year - there are plenty more cucumbers, beetroot and pears where the first batch came from, and other vegetables in the veg patch that need dealing with too. (3) Do I smell burning? Did I turn off the hob?

The morning after, the vinegar fumes having dissipated, I was feeling a little more balanced and reflective. Gazing along the rows of different sized jam and kilner jars, I had that wonderful, primordial smug/satisfied feeling that arises the day after a mammoth session of food storing. In November or December when fresh produce is starting to wear thin, and we can pop open a jar and taste harvest 2017 all over again.

The Basics – Making the Most of Space

As we start to clear crops from the greenhouse/polytunnel, you can use the available space to grow winter salad crops such as lettuce, cabbage, radish, chard, land cress, corn salad, claytonia (often called purslane or miner’s lettuce) and texsel greens.

These plants will provide fantastic greens (and bundles of Vit C) during the winter and if you sow enough of them, they may even keep you in greens until the first new season crops arrive next Spring. They will grow more slowly than they would earlier in the season, but if you sow them now, they will put a burst of growth on before the real cold weather sets in.

GIY Ireland

Things to do this Month - September

To-Do

Lift crops which have finished growing and dress bare soil with manure, compost (or plant green manures). Wasps can be problematic as fruit ripens so make traps from jars of sugary water. Remove surplus leaves from tomato plants which allows air to circulate and sunshine to fall on the fruit. Go blackberry picking!

Sow

Last month for sowing perpetual spinach, chard and oriental salads – it will be worth it in the New Year when there’s almost nothing else to eat, so get sowing! In the polytunnel/greenhouse sow lettuce, mustard, cress, basil, coriander, parsley, radish, dwarf early pea, broadbean, cauliflower seed, rocket, onion seed and garlic. Outside sow white turnip seeds and autumn onion sets, e.g. ‘centurion’ and ‘sturon’. Plant out strawberry runners. Pot up some parsley for winter use.

Harvest

Lift onions and leave to dry out in sun or in the polytunnel/greenhouse for two weeks. Apples, plums, pears are now in season. Continue to harvest salad leaves, tomatoes, radish, potatoes, carrots, turnips, beetroots, cauliflower, cucumbers, peppers, beans, courgettes, spinach, leeks, red cabbage, summer cabbage, aubergine, sweet corn.

Recipe of the Month – Glut-Buster Seasonal Slaw

This will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge and serves 4.

Ingredients:

• 2 beets, peeled and shredded
• 2 small carrots, shredded
• 1/4 cabbage, thinly sliced
• 2 lemons, zest and juice
• 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
• 4 Tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
• 1 Tablespoon honey
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine the vegetables with lemon zest in a very large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients with lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add it to the vegetables and mix well.

Become a VIPea

By joining GIY you help us to continue the work of supporting people just like you to grow food at home, at school, in the workplace and in the community – this year we will support over 500,000 people and 9,000 community food growing groups and projects. It costs just €35 to join GIY for a year, and to say thanks we will send you a seasonal copy of our supporter’s magazine GROW and some GIY seeds for you to sow each quarter. It will also entitle you to a 10% discount at GROW HQ and our online shop. Join today at www.GIY.ie.

GROW HQ

The home of the GIY movement and our brand new food education centre, GROW HQ, is finally open in Waterford city. In addition to our 65-seat home-grown food café and shop, we’ve a range of growing and cooking courses happening weekly – for courses happening this month, check out www.growhq.org

About GIYMichael Kelly

GIY is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to create a healthier, more sustainable world where people grow their own food. We inspire and support people to grow food more successfully by bringing them together to share advice, tips and ideas. There are approximately 65,000 people involved in the GIY movement in Ireland, which is proudly supported by Woodies DIY.

For more information check out www.giyireland.com

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY Ireland. 
© GIY Ireland 2017 – all rights reserved.

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