episode 78. storing and preserving root crops.

Hi everyone and welcome to episode 78 of the veg grower podcast titled storing root crops and today’s date is the 22/8/2016.
Today I’m going to talk about a few updates and then a few methods on storing root crops many of which I’ve done but also I’ve seen other adaption that should work well.
Firstly the allotment was down there yesterday and I started with more weeding, trying to remove more and more of the damn couch grass. I followed this by planting the bean seedlings I had these are some French beans and some borlotto beans all of which I should hopefully get some produce from. I then tied in the tomato plants making sure they where secure and followed this with a good watering and feeding.
As we had some strong winds on Saturday the netting had been blown over so I weeded the bed and planted in some swede seedlings while these where not in place. I the rebuilt the netting thankfully they where not broken in any way just the pegs that hold them down had come up in the wind and blown the netting over.
the family apple tree that has lots os apples on it, I noticed it was leaning over so I’ve staked that to make it more upright. I’ve only had a cane at this point so i will need to replace this with a decent stake at some point. it had also lost a single apple’ this was lying on the ground, it was small and not really edible so needless to say it ended up being given to the chickens.
This week I’ve harvested some runner and French beans. I picked some marjoram to use in a lasagna I was doing for tea and I’ve also harvested some rather tasty carrots.
these carrots were sown in mid may roughly and are now of a decent enough size to start using, of which I’m quite glad about really. although I don’t really have enough carrots in the ground to last I have enough to get us most of the way through the year.
so at the veg plot at home well not much really, as it’s this time of year not much in the way of jobs is happening. everything is growing well and the weeding is mostly done by the chickens. harvests of herbs and tomatoes are coming in nicely although something to note here is I harvested my first outdoor tomato. it could have perhaps done with a couple more days to ripen but I couldn’t help myself.
Today I have sorted out the saffron bulbs, before they set into growing. I basically emptied all the containers that I planted about 4 years ago. originally I planted 30 bulbs in 4 planters, well I had a lot more than 30 bulbs of which some have now been planted back into the original planters with an extra planter I brought today. the rest well some have gone to the winner of the members competition I ran on the website (congrats davros) I also have a friend who would like some so some are going to her. the rest I shall be buying more planters tomorrow and get them planted up.
ok so the main subject today storing and preserving root crops. now root crops I put into this list include carrots, beetroot and parsnips but I also consider onions and garlic in this area as well.
so as with all the methods I’ve discussed before freezing is by far the simplest and to freeze I simply peel and chop my produce down to the size I want depending on what the produce is. I then put in the freezer although the generally advice is to blanch it first. blanching is where you simply place the produce in hot boiling water for few seconds to stop the produce growing more and then plunge it in ice water to cool it before freezing. a little word of advice here never ever place hot items straight into the freezer always let them cool first, this is coming from someone who repairs fridges for a living.
anyway after blanching the produce can then be put in the freezer and its ready to go. when i do this i like to freeze each produce separately so I have frozen carrots and frozen parsnips etc but in the past I’ve also mixed vegetables to freeze together to make a frozen medley ready to use.
now dehydrating these root crops is certainly possible but i don’t believe its the best preservation method but it certainly works. i like to cut up the produce into chunks and place on the dehydrator to crisp, about 6 hours.
this method does work but the resulting outcome may not be to everyone’s taste but its worth experimenting and perhaps creating some “vegetable chips”.
in the past many root crops were stored in designated storage areas such as a root cellar or a root store. now a root cellar is hard to replicate in the uk a cool dark shed will suffice with the crops of the ground. I try to do this with potatoes with the potatoes put in dark hessian bags and the bags are then hung up.
to be honest the best way to store root crops is to leave them in the ground until required. in practise when the soil is frozen solid in winter this is not practical to dig up the produce when needed but why not emulate this method. this I’ve done by making some wooden boxes placing a thick layer of damp sand on the bottom then placing my crops on top of this sand, making sure the crops are not touching then covering with more sand, then repeating this until the box is full. after this all I’ve done is stored this box in a dark shed and kept the sand damped. then when I’ve needed the crop I’ve pulled it out the sand. very easy and very effective.
another old-fashioned method but ill admit I’ve never done this is called a clamp. a clamp is a mound on the ground outside full of crops and straw covered in earth. in my research on these farmers used to do this way before the time of refrigeration so it must work but not efficiently and I see a problem with pests such as rats and birds getting at your crops.
while on the subject of things I haven’t done I feel I should bring up the root cellar and a version of these that could be replicated. what I have seen online is that some people have buried a chest freezer in the ground to use as a root cellar. I see this as working too and may well be something I shall investigate into the future.
canning is a method I’ve only recently got into. this method is basically putting the crops in a jar with some water and then placing the jar in a hot water bath to sterilise inside the jar. its simple and is basically what we get in the supermarket when we buy tins of food. it works well with carrots and once its made it requires no refrigeration to store, just somewhere dark, cool and an even temperature.
ok so my final method of preserving root crops is using vinegar. two methods I have for this is pickling and chutney.
pickling works very well with onions or beetroot to name a few. for pickled onions I simply peel the onions and top and tail them. I then place them in glass jam jars and pour over some pickling vinegar place vinegar proof lids on top and leave until required. this quick recipe is the basic for any pickling item.
chutney take a little longer but also add a new dimension in flavour to our kitchen. there are millions of recipes on the internet with a few on my website and I’m adding more in the future so if your stuck with what to do you know where to look.
ok so that it for this week, if you have any methods or recipes to go with this subject let me know in the comments on the blog post for this episode on the website theveggrowerpodcast.co.uk.
next week I’m planning to wrap this series up by discussing preserving vegetables so let me know anything you think is worth mentioning and I shall speak to you next week.

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