Grow It Yourself - September

There’s been a sudden drop in nighttime temperatures which it has to be said can’t be unexpected given the time of year. Still, with the kids back to school as well, it’s a fairly dramatic switch in season from summertime to autumnal.

After a summer of leaving the tunnels and potting shed open in balmy nighttimes, it’s back to a routine of closing them up at night to preserve as much of the daytime heat as possible. It is getting down below 7 degrees Celsius at night now, a temperature that could cause problems for tender salad leaves and tomatoes. Given that slugs have returned with a vengeance after the drought I’m also doing some nighttime slug hunting using the light on my phone to find them. They are particularly a problem in the smaller tunnel, where they are to be found after dark on the chilli plants, spinach (both on a new sowing of annual spinach and on the hardier perpetual spinach) and on salad seedlings. They can also be found occasionally in the potting shed, where they can reek havoc on a tray of emerging seedlings. Recently they munched through an entire, just-germinated tray of lettuce which was destined for the autumn tunnel.

There’s a definite sense of the growth disappearing gradually from the year. Though the winter greens that I sowed a few weeks back in the potting shed are growing, it’s a slower growth than earlier in the year. The trick I think is to ignore that sense of impending winter as much as possible and keep on sowing. This week I sowed some Florence fennel seeds in module trays for the tunnel, some white turnips direct in the ground outside and a green manure in the bed where I took my onions out of.

Thankfully there’s still a sense of abundance to counteract the gathering gloom, particularly in terms of courgettes, tomatoes and cucumbers which are still churning out their fruit at levels that are hard to cope with. I’ve a new outlet for some of this abundance now given that our chef in HQ will take whatever excess I have, and it’s far easier to pop a few courgettes and cucumbers in to the laptop bag to bring in to him rather than process them myself in the kitchen. I worry that this will mean I won’t have my own stash of chutneys, pickles and the like – but in the scheme of things that’s only a minor worry. We’re still busy processing tomatoes mind you which are far too precious to be handing over to anyone. A large bucket of tomatoes comes in to the kitchen every week and gets processed as per below, storing up their luscious sweetness for the long winter ahead.

The Basics – Freezing Tomatoes

Of course tomatoes are amazing to eat fresh, but if you have any serious excess, turning them in to a sauce is a great way to freeze their goodness and flavour. There is a little prep work in the ‘recipe’ below, but nothing too onerous, and it’s a fantastically versatile and delicious sauce to have in the freezer. The basic idea is to bake the tomatoes for 45 minutes in a baking tray with a few other bits and pieces and then blitz them in to a sauce for freezing. We use this sauce as a base for pizzas, pastas, stews, casseroles and soups. It’s even flavourful enough to be used by itself as a soup.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Remove the stalks from the tomatoes. You can chop the bigger ones in halves or quarters, but smaller cherry tomatoes can be thrown in whole. Throw them in to a baking tray as you chop. Roughly chop a medium sized courgette and 2-3 peeled garlic cloves and add them to the tray too. Add a sprig of herbs – rosemary and thyme are ideal – and a splash of olive oil. Season really well with lots of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Use a hand blender to blitz it all down to a sauce consistency. To save time, I often blitz it right there in the baking tray but it can be a little messy so maybe better to transfer to a saucepan first. Leave to cool completely and then pour in to Tupperware containers or freezer bags to put in the freezer.

Recipe of the Week – Roast Peppers and Tomatoes with Butterbean Mash

A herby, garlicky, warming veggie treat from Nigel Slater. It’s a sinch to put together and celebrates three of the great seasonal veg of the moment – peppers, tomatoes and aubergines.


• 400g small peppers
• 250g cherry tomatoes
• 400g aubergine
• 6 garlic cloves
• 3 large sprigs rosemary
• 5 tbps olive oil
• 2 x 400g cans butterbeans


Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Place the peppers, cherry tomatoes and aubergines in a roasting tin. Tuck in the 6 fat garlic cloves, still in their skins, and the rosemary among the vegetables, then spoon over the olive oil. Let the vegetables roast in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until they are approaching softness, then push them to one side of the tin and tip the butter beans into the tin. Stir the beans to coat them in oil and roasting juices, then return to the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes until all is soft and golden.

Remove the garlic from the roasting tin and squeeze each clove from its skin into the bowl of a food processor. Tip in the warm beans and process to a thick, fluffy purée. Check the seasoning then pile the purée on to a serving plate and place the vegetables on top. Spoon over any juices.

About GIY

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

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY Ireland. 
© GIY Ireland 2018 – all rights reserved.

There are currently no comments

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment
Not a member? Register for your free membership now!
Or leave a comment by logging in with: