Archive for the 'Storing & Preserving' Category

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Sunshine Dried Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti_squash

At the moment my greenhouse is home to a collection of Spaghetti Squash that I just harvested. It was one of the more successful plants I had from the curcubit family this year. The other one was Butternut Squash. But they are not quite ready yet.

I had two Spaghetti Squash plants placed pretty close together and I’ve harvested around eight squashes. When they are ready the stalk starts to die back a little and some of them actually detach themselves from the plants and just sit there in amongst the leaves that are wilting with the cold.

They start off a sort of pale lemon colour and as they ripen and the skins harden in the sun they go this lovely sunshine yellow. It’s a wonderful colour for Autumn.

And it’s nice to have something in the greenhouse again. It’s been far too empty for far too long.

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How to Braid Onions

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I just harvested my Shallots. About a two weeks ago I flopped over the tops to begin the drying out process. Last week I dug them and left them on the surface of the soil and now it’s time to prepare them for storage. I usually put them in a woven basket and store them in a cool, dark place. But this year I thought I would have a go at braiding them into plaits.

onion plaits

They look very decorative when prepared like this. You can hang them from the top and the air circulates around each Onion making it less likely to rot in storage.

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Braiding them is actually pretty easy if you know how to braid hair into a plait. However, I’ve found that it’s best to braid the onion leaves while they are still a little malleable and just before they are bone-dry. If they are too dry they simply crumble and are not workable.

1. Choose three large Onions to start the braid with. The leaf part should be nice and long.
2. Place them next to each other in a line and hold each leaf section separately – you should have three.
3. Bring the right-hand section over the central section.
4. Bring the left-hand section over the new central section.
5. Add another Onion and blend its leaves with the new central section.
6. Repeat from step three.
7. When your braid has around 10 – 15 Onions on it (depending on size) start to braid the sections without adding any new Onions
8. Finish up by tying a knot at the top with the sections remaining.

Hang your Onion braid in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.

mtp

Harvesting Shallots

I harvested my Shallots a couple of days ago. They had reached the stage where their leaves had flopped over and dried out and the bulbs were looking pretty big. So I took advantage of a sunny day and dug the whole harvest up.

I put them in a wooden tray to dry in the sun for a few days – with the precaution of the lid from my Victorian cloche over them. And today I rubbed off the dirt and put them in this old sieve ready for storage.

They like to have air circulating around them so anything with holes in is ideal. Sometimes I use old Orange bags, or netted shopping bags if I have a lot to store.

I’m pretty happy with the harvest. Last year I grew Longor Shallots which are more bullet shaped than these. This year I went for round ones (can’t remember the variety). Some are a little small but they make a good addition to my son, Jackson’s, meals since he won’t eat a lot of oniony flavours anyway.

I always feel a bit smug when I put away the first harvest of the season for storing. I’m always a bit sad when I see Lettuce go to seed, or a Cauliflower go over. All that effort and I just wasn’t quick enough to enjoy it. With Onions and Shallots it’s a different story – none of it goes to waste (assuming none of them rot) and it feels good to know that all my effort will be rewarded over the coming months.

We’ve had three days of solid, wall-to-wall sunshine. Which means a few things. Firstly, that my Tomatoes are ripening (more on that later) and secondly that I can start to think about lifting my Shallots and Onions. First to go are the Shallots. I planted my own saved bulbs this year and what a success they’ve been? They’re the variety Longor (which tend to be more long, missile-shaped than squat) and they’ve grown even bigger than last year!

I dug them up yesterday, making sure to tease them out gently with a fork and lightly rub most of the dirt off. Then I put them in this old sieve in the sunshine to dry. The sieve is great because it keeps them off the ground and lets the air circulate around them. Once they’re nice and papery, I’ll pack them in my wicker Onion basket and store them in my cool, dry outhouse.

I find that I have more use for Shallots than huge Onions. As there is only the three of us there aren’t many recipes that require a whole massive Onion. And Shallots definitely have a milder taste than Onions, which means they’re great for little fussy tastbuds!

Can anyone recommend some different varieties. I feel like growing some red Shallots (as well as white) next year!