Thursday, March 14, 2013

Heated Harvest

I was going to have a photo of the apple trees here, but it is dark now, so here is part of the front garden in spring when it was behaving nicely...

So I posted here last year about my shame and angst at the waste that happens in our garden when there is a glut of fruit or vegetables, when everything ripens at once. Harvest, and using the harvest is one of the hardest things about gardening. I read that in one Jackie French's gardening books once when I was a new gardener, and didn't believe a word of it. And really, when you plant a seed, or a tiny apple tree, it is very difficult to imagine the massive amount of food that will one day be dropping all over your garden every day, filling all the kitchen benches, and threatening to go off before your very eyes if you don't cook it or eat it TODAY.

As a hobby, food gardening is demanding. Unlike, say, knitting, that you can put in a cupboard when you want to do something else, gardening is needy. The apples will ripen and drop from the tree, the pots will need watering, winter vegetables will need sowing, the pears and the tomatoes will be piled up in the kitchen giving you the LOOK every time you walk past them.  And it will be hot, and there will be bales of pea straw ready to mulch the beds, but they need to be weeded and fed first..


Tomatoes, giving me the LOOK

You might get the idea that I don't like gardening, but I love it, I really do. Just like I love being a Mum, but there are days... you know?

Anyway, this week when it has been so hot, I have been determined not to waste any of those ripening apples and pears, but unwilling to cook anything, so I have been filling up the dryer on a continual basis, with tray after tray of fruit.

I bought the dehydrator second hand a few years ago, and have been making it work very hard ever since. I mostly put it out in The Man's shed, so its humming and heat don't drive us insane in the house, and whatever stage the drying process is at, I turn it off at night or when I go out, which doesn't seem to harm the fruit at all. Most books (including the instruction manual) will tell you to dip the fruit in a syrup or lemon juice before you dry, advice that I completely ignore. I just chop around all the nasty codling moth holes in the fruit, slice, skin and all, and pop straight into the dryer tray.



I dry them until they are quite crunchy, and able to be snapped. That way I don't have to worry about them going mouldy in the jar. There is a gap in the ring of apples on the left where The Vulture Child snitched a piece while I was turning around to get the camera. By the time I had put the camera away, she had eaten the entire inner ring.



Here is the final product, in the ubiquitous coffee jars. It is super yummy, clearly, and only part of the harvest makes it into a jar at all. The pears are sweet and chewy, the apples are so perfumed it is like eating essence of apple. It is the only fruit (bar pineapple chunks! and our home made fruit leathers) that Posy will take to school.




The other day I saw this exact same product being sold at our local wholefood store for $36 kg. Ours cost about 70c for electricity per batch. So I'll be making more, and maybe hiding it so there will be some left for winter..

13 comments:

Left-Handed Housewife said...

I love seeing your produce--we're still months away here from having a productive garden. Last year I had stomach problems and couldn't eat tomatoes, so this summer I planning on eating twice as many!

There's always that point when the garden seems overwhelming. Now that we have a deep freeze, I pick the tomatoes, rinse them off, put them in half-gallon bags and pop them in the freezer. It doesn't take any time, I don't feel like I'm wasting perfectly good food, and we have wonderful tomato sauce all winter.

Still haven't figured out what to do with our overabundance of figs ... maybe I should dry them?

frances

Heather said...

I dry apple and pear slices in my oven, but I'd love to invest in a dehydrator this year.

I was just thinking about going to the nursery tomorrow to buy some plants for my veggie beds. It's time to plan my garden for the season.

I know what you mean about an over-abundant harvest. I love zucchini and yellow squash, but it is hard to use all the harvest. Someone told me to freeze the overflow to use in squash casserole, but I just don't like the texture after it has been frozen.

Jo said...

Frances, I do like your tomato preservation plan. I would do it in a heartbeat if I had a big freezer. Instead I make the simplest tomato passata, and freeze that instead; the tomatoes cook down to very little, sadly, but at least they don't take up much freezer room.
And figs! Lucky you! Jam, of course, so divine, and my absolute favourite. Look up any recipe, then add the rind and juice of a lemon or orange or two. That was the secret ingredient my old Italian neighbour confided to me once, and it makes good into perfect.

Heather, I love zucchini, but could never abide squash. Even its name sounds icky. I have dried zucchini slices this summer to see how they rehydrate in winter stews. Will keep you posted!

GretchenJoanna said...

Did you ever try those Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes? They are my current favorite way to get those fruits down to a manageable quantity, and to a form that makes for an easy and lovely appetizer ingredient.... here was the original recipe I used: http://pinchmysalt.com/smitten-with-slow-roasted-cherry-tomatoes/

Dried pears? They are irresistible!

Jo said...

Oooh, GJ, they look gorgeous. I was going to try to dry some of course, but I'll give this a go instead.

lucindasans said...

They look gorgeous. No over abundance of homegrown here, except homegrown weeds. I sometimes dream that I'd like to have more time to garden but I know that is my fantasy self, and my type of gardening is the Miss Marple type. You know, with a gardener who does the work, and I just go out and do a little pruning and maybe a little repotting.

If you lived closer I would be happy to take your excess off you. We could swap. My excess clothes for your excess fruit!

Jo said...

Mmm, yes, Lucinda, that would be a great swap! Expect a parcel of tomatoes by next post..
And whisper... Miss Marple-type gardening would be so divine. I'm sure DIY gardening is good for the soul, but executive-style gardening has a lot to be said for it...

lucindasans said...

Jo, you've brought a smile to my face with that comment. Love it. (and doubly so, as I comment regularly on a couple of other blogs and, she says trying not to be petulant, I often do not get replies to my post. And just looked at one of my comments and I am the only one of about 33 comments not to get a reply from the blogger. IRL, I am hard to ignore and want to add to my comments, please answer, I am really witty and interesting, honest. What have I done to offend or be ignored?)

OK, I am over being needy. Just a little vent. Resume normal transmission. Back to our reporter in the field of excess fruit.

Jo said...

Lucinda, feel free to be witty and interesting here as much as you like. I LOVE your comments, they are honest and hilarious! And it's all about the conversation after all..

e / dig in said...

i'm playing catch up with your posts, jo :-) you capture how i feel so clearly. i love gardening and love trying to have a vegie garden, but there does come a point - even when you have only a small suburban yard, and especially if you're single like me - that everything gets overwhelming and you feel like breaking down in tears. i felt a lot like that this summer just trying to keep the garden alive in the extreme hot and dry conditions, and dealing with the bird-attacked apricots and codlin-moth apples. it makes you want to scream when TV gardeners make it look so easy.

Jo said...

I agree, e, a half hour TV show doesn't quite capture the angst.. I am feeling for you.

Judy said...

Wow, your apples look delicious! Our Transition group has just bought a dehydrator, which I am hoping to borrow. Not that I have a glut of anything - I look forward to that happening. Well actually we get a lot of rhubarb, but that is easy to give away or freeze.

We have just bought an apple peeler. You turn the handle and it peels and de-cores the apple, and slices it into a long spiral (like a slinky!). Everyone loves it, and apple eating has become my daughters favourite passtime, as it is safe for her to do on her own. You might find it handy for preparing the apples to dehydrate. It does seem easy for making pies and you can select to leave the peel on if you want.

In the UK you can get it from Lakeland at http://www.lakeland.co.uk/13181/Apple-Master but you may be able to get something similar locally. Well worth the cupboard space :-)

Jo said...

Judy, I do have one of those peelers, and I use it on bought apples, but sadly mine are full of codling moth damage and bruises, so I have to cut around it. A glut of rhubarb is good. I love rhubarb. I have a recipe for rhubarb jam, but I have never had quite enough left over to try it yet.

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