Growing your own fruit, herbs and vegetables ensures that they’ll be at their very best when it comes to eating them moments after they have been picked or dug up. Flavour, texture and nutritional value are all at their peak when produce is fresh-picked or harvested. Generally it works out that you can leave your food plants growing until you need to take produce from them – this guarantees that all-important freshness. There are many vegetables – like carrots, beetroot, leeks and parsnips that store well in the ground. Others such as pumpkins and potatoes can be stored for months indoors with the right handling. Apples, garlic and onions too have a good ‘shelf life’. Some harvests are a more of a glut and a time for feasting – grapes, avocados, feijoas and asparagus are all delicious fresh. However, with the right recipes even these fresh treats can be transformed into a resourceful long- term food store by freezing, preserving and pickling. The most important thing of all is knowing when plants and produce are ready and how best to harvest them.
equipment bare hands
When starting with fresh plants, pick off all early fruit in spring to encourage strong leaf growth – the plants should then go on to produce luscious fruit in summer. As the fruit begin to form, lay a mulch of straw, pine needles, newspaper or untreated, fine wood shavings beneath them to prevent any from rotting – the mulch also suppresses weeds and holds in vital moisture. Cut off runners as they appear or they will divert energy away from producing fruit. Maybe worth allowing one runner per plant to grow so you can re-plant it for the next season. Strawberries are best picked when they turn red from early summer. Pick fruit with the stalk in tact. Regular picking ensures a prolonged harvest. Strawberries are best freshly picked from your own plants but they can be frozen. However they’ll collapse and go mushy when defrosted – so best used in jams or puddings.more
equipment Bare hands
Favourite herb of photographer Deborah Smith, sorrel has a refreshing sweet citrusy bite that often sees it paired up with delicate white fish. Deb loves it fresh picked and sprinkled with olive oil and garlic or added to a salad. To keep your sorrel tasting at its best water young seedlings in dry periods. Mulch to retain moisture and feed every few weeks with a liquid worm juice or compost tea to boost foliage growth. Harvest the leaves you want just before you intend to use it. Pick individual leaves from plants and do so regularly to keep foliage young and tender. If necessary, older plants can be given a radical trim to within a few inches of ground level to bring on a rush of fresh young foliage.more
equipment Bare hands, trowell
Leaves can be picked during the growing period and added to salads and stir fries - just pinch one or two from each plant to add to salads. Careful you don’t pull on the roots when you do this – best use a knife. As soon as the sight of those swollen roots starts you thinking about borscht, salads, pickles and the like then they are probably ready for harvest. Size-wise, we are talking about halfway between a golf ball and a tennis ball – unless they are cylindrical in which case the size of a medium to large carrot should do. Don’t let roots get too big or they will be tough and fibrous. Pull individual plants out by the leaves as and when you need them but take care not to dislodge or uproot any others as this may cause them to soften in the ground. Smaller beetroots can be grated and eaten raw or boiled or roasted with herbs, they are also great for pickling. Larger beets are best cut up and roasted with garlic and thyme and a splash of olive oil.more
Aubergines really produce a unique flavor when they have been blackened and burned over a barbecue flame or under a grill. The flesh melts and develops a rich smoky flavor. Rather than smoking fish, which I think robs it of its best taste and texture, combining it – as we do here – with a pungent smoky vegetable creates a dish that allows the best of these two main ingredients to shine.
The key to eating radishes is to pick them when they are still really small. They have a much milder flavor than mature roots and this works really well with an oily fish like Trevally. Trevally is a great fish to cook with and should really be used more often. I grow radishes on either side of high summer when the lack of fully intense heat keeps their flavor subtle.