Here at The Yorkshire Preservatory, I believe the best home made preserves are made by using the freshest ingredients available. For me that means “growing your own”. Some gardeners preserve their homegrown produce because they find themselves with an abundance of fruit and vegetables in late summer; overwhelmed by the glut of courgettes or green beans they desperately try to encourage their friends to take a few more home with them after each visit. Reluctantly they do!
I am not one of these gardeners. Although I delight in gifting the odd cucumber or bag of green beans, I much prefer to pass on a jar or bottle of something that I have lovingly created from my gardening endeavours. You see I grow to preserve and it is at this time of year that I really begin to plot what I am going to grow on my plot if you see what I mean.
Each year I select seeds to grow based on the preserves I am going to make. Some plants are not difficult to choose. I am always going to grow courgettes, tomatoes, gherkins, chillies, onions and garlic as these are staples in my preserver’s basket. The fun is deciding which variety of each fruit or vegetable to grow. Then there are the more exotic fruit and veg to try; aubergines, peppers, kohl rabi; I never know where to stop!
Alongside the annual vegetables there is also the fruit garden to consider. Each year I nurture rhubarb, blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, jostaberries, tayberries, and currants of every colour. Last year even my fig tree and peach tree supplied me with a harvest sufficient to put up a few jars of delicious preserves.
Other essential ingredients for the serious home preserver are plums, damsons and apples. I am blessed with having four different apple trees on my allotment, all prolific producers. I still greedily accept any offers of windfalls as I am a firm believer that you can never have enough apples!
This year I have planted a small orchard containing greengage, mirabelle and damson plum trees. Gifted some quince last year I coveted my own tree, so one of these now stands proudly in my orchard along side the unusual medlar I have read about but never tasted. All of the fruits from these trees make excellent preserves!
Part of planning which fruit and vegetables to grow allows me to grow successionally. Throughout the growing season each month provides me with sufficient ingredients to satisfy my need to have a fix preserving wise. I also try to freeze a portion of everything I grow so that I have some fruit and veg to fall back on during the winter months. Soft fruits are easy to freeze and nothing beats making strawberry jam to dollop on a home made scone in the depths of winter.
As well as growing and preserving for my self, friends and family, I have a passion (it may be a mission…) to help others learn how to make jams, chutneys, jellies, sauces and more. Whether you grow the ingredients yourself to preserve; are gifted someone else’s glut or buy the fruit and veg yourself, I really believe there is nothing more satisfying that knowing you can make your own preserves. Click on the photo below to see some of the preserves I have made this year.
Growing to preserve is a way of life that endlessly fulfils me. From the first seed sown through to the final twist of the lid of the jar that captures the essence of the allotment, I look forward to hearing the pop that will release not only the taste of the seasons but the memories encapsulated within as I open a new jar or bottle from the shelf.
If you would like to learn how to make your own preserves why not join me in a workshop where you can learn the basics of preserving. You can either join a scheduled workshop or request a time suited to you. I hope, like me, you catch the preserving bug.