Episode 76. Preserving salad crops.

Hi guys and welcome to the veg grower podcast episode 76 titled preserving salad crops.
Coming up today there's a few updates followed by a chat about preserving salad crops but first I want to talk a little about my trip to west dean gardens chilli fiesta on Saturday.
Now as many of you may know I go there most years I thoroughly enjoy the event and walking around the walled gardens and this year didn't disappoint.
It's pretty much the same as previous years but getting bigger and more popular with plenty of entertainment.
My first stop was a stall we always visit selling some fantastic cakes and pies which we brought before they got to busy and the bloke on the stall recognised us again. We then walked around the many stalls selling chilli related items from chilli seeds and plants to chilli sauce and chilli clocks. There was even stalls selling sombrero to really and effect.
We wandered around and sampled many chilli products I also visited the garlic farms stall and brought some seed garlic but more on that another time. We then walked around the walled vegetable gardens and seen the amazing things they do such as arch's using apple and pear trees and the greenhouses full of melons etc etc. Really worth a visit.
We then had lunch while watching some belly dancers and Mexican band before walking around the grounds again and the stalls. I brought some chilli seeds for next year. We also watched a gardening expert talk about how to grow chilli a and tips for success. In another tent was a cookery demonstration again chilli based but thoroughly enjoyable.
In all it was a throughly good day I have recorded a video while walking alarming that I shall upload soon. But I do recommended visiting this site they are having an Apple event in September I believe of which we may attend.
Ok so updates well on the allotment I mainly have weeded and harvested. The first runner beans have been picked and also getting a supply of climbing beans. All the onions are now harvested and only a few shallots left. These beds will now be hoed completely and have well-rotted manure and compost added ready to be planted along with some chicken manure and garlic feed ready for planting.
The frames I erected last week are still standing and serving we'll although the he broccoli is going to flower very fast. However the leeks are fattening up really nicely now.
A good watering and that's all I've managed on the allotment at home the seedlings I sowed last week are through these are more climbing beans and cannalini beans along with some cabbage these will need potting on soon or planting out.
I've also been plaiting more garlic of which I've recorded I won't try to explain this as a video shows it better but my supply of garlic and onions in the shed is rather large.
More and more tomatoes are coming from the greenhouse but still waiting on courgettes or cucumbers etc fingers crossed.
So that's the updates now preserving salad crops the main subject today I'll start with defining what I class as salad crops. I mean crops such as lettuce tomatoes and cucumbers in this but as always not every method will work for the crop.
Salad leaves are difficult to preserve they can last for up to a week in the fridge but that's all I have to preserve them instead I rather use successional cropping and keep growing leaves right through winter to keep me going in the winter which is very very easy to do but may mean growing indoors on a windowsill.
Drying or dehydrating works well with items such as tomatoes think sun-dried tomatoes and your there but while it is possible to dry in the sun in this country, it may not be the safest way instead I use my trusty dehydrator. With tomatoes I simply cut in half scoop out the seed and dehydrate for 4 hours approximately. These store well in a jar and can be used for many other items such as celery. To use I use as they or I soak them overnight in water to rehydrate.
Freezing is also possible but due to the high water content in salad crops they will turn to mush when defrosted but that's ok as I find that to be useful in stews or soups.
Similar to stews or soups is a preservation method called canning. This is where you take your crops process them then place them in a jar, put the lid on and put them in a canner bath the heat from the canning bath kills any bacteria and also creates a vacuum inside the jar to aid preservation. Tomatoes made into pasta sauces this way last a long time.
Another method is pickling. We have all heard of pickled gherkins or pickled beetroot well that is what we do here. I'll use gherkins in this example I take our gherkins and place them in a clean jar I then cover in a pickling vinegar of which I have brought ready to use or I've made my own pickling vinegar I'll come to that shortly. The vinegar then Herts poured into the jar covering the gherkins completely. A vinegar prof lid is placed on top and its placed somewhere dark untill I want to use it. A vinegar proof lid is very important as vinegar is acid and can rust through metal lids.
Ok so I mentioned making my own pickling vinegar well that I take some distilled vinegar and pour in a pan and gently heat. I add some pickling spices such as dried chillies, mustard seeds, dill, pepper seeds its workers experimenting what to use here as it's a taste preference really. Once added, stirred and the vinegar is warm I keep warm until I need it and add it to the item I'm preserving or leave to cool and store untill needed. Straining the spices if required but often I like to leave them for decoration.
Now these are the methods I use for preserving salad crops but the only way to really have salads in the winter is to grow them as I said with salad leaves, there are many other crops that this can work with too so it's worth experimenting.
So what methods do you use let me know in the comments.

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