The Croftless Crofter: Nic Goddard

NO F27 jam
NO F27 jam

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Anyone who keeps chickens or has been growing on the windowsill, garden or plot this summer will have experienced ‘The Glut’.

They will also likely have lived through ‘The Hunger Gap’. The concept of famine or feast is one we are all pretty familiar with just now having lived through a very recent shortage of supplies, including loo roll, flour and pasta in our supermarkets at the
start of the pandemic due to panic buying and supplier issues. Most of us probably now have a bit of a stash of the above.

My husband recently arrived home with four netted bags of lemons and three of limes having scooped them up reduced to clear for just eight pence a bag.

You can avoid the glut of produce from the supermarket by ignoring the siren song of the yellow sticker and adhering rigidly to the shopping list but home produce is a bit less controllable.

The early thrill of all of your tomato seeds germinating and growing into healthy plants with little yellow flowers turning to tiny green spheres swelling to bowing stems bejewelled with red tomatoes is hard to deny.

The first taste of home grown tomatoes may be one of the most delicious things ever. The same will apply for strawberries, peas, courgettes, beans, cucumbers.

NO F27 berry harvest
NO F27 berry harvest

But you might be hitting a point when ‘courgette surprise’ for the third meal in a row is wearing a bit thin.

At our house we are all slightly bored of pancakes, eggs cooked seven ways, and no one really liked omelettes in the first place.

So, how to deal with the excess of home grown produce? Give some away is always a great option. Any friend or neighbour is always delighted with a small gift of freshly laid eggs, bowl of fruit and veg or a bag of home-grown salad.

You could barter, either swapping gluts with someone else for a bit of variety or something else useful. We swapped eggs for manure earlier this year. You could search the internet for recipes or ask family and friends for their ideas.

A friend who ended up with four weeks worth of potatoes when they kept coming in their veg box delivery recently posted on Facebook for recipes and got enough suggestions to eat a different potato dish every day for the next six weeks.

Or you could hoard. Almost all fresh produce can be frozen, pickled, preserved, dehydrated, dried or jarred. Those bargain lemons and limes my husband couldn’t resist were sliced up and frozen and have been very welcome in my gin and tonic – far better than an ice cube which melts and dilutes my drink!

We also have some home-grown herbs chopped up and frozen, along with some peas. Eggs can be frozen too – you need to crack them open, beat the yolk and the white together and add some sugar or salt.

Make sure you clearly label how many eggs are in the bag and whether they are for sweet or savoury baking though.

Our Christmas cake every year is always made in October with frozen eggs from the summer because our chickens have inevitably stopped laying just at the point I have a recipe calling for 10 eggs.

I’ll probably just about run out of last year’s dried chillies as this year’s fresh ones are ready and then I’ll string up the excess to start drying those. I’ve peeled garlic cloves and stored them in jars of oil and you can slow roast tomatoes and preserve them in oil too.

You may get bored of berries in the middle of summer but a jar of homemade jam is a welcome reminder of the sunshine in January.

Creative ways of using your produce and storing it for future use is as much a part of growing your own food as sowing seeds and keeping on top of the weeds during the growing season. And being able to bring out a delicious treat weeks or even months after it was growing in the ground keeps that glow of pride lasting even longer.