Cook’s Corner:autumn delights

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Home dried beans and homegrown tomatoes and potatoes are all precious and delicious. Here’s how to harvest and store them. For more, see our webinars, posted on the BDA YouTube channel here.

Home dried beans:

As long as the weather allows, leave these to dry naturally on the plant until the skins are paper dry; if it turns wet, and the skins start to show signs of mould, harvest and bring inside , lay them out in single layers somewhere cool, and they will continue to dry and mature. Store in airtight containers (crock or glass are best) somewhere cool.

TIP: Fresh dried beans are the ultimate luxury, second only to asparagus.They are especially soft and creamy in texture and take only 20-30 minutes to cook.

TIP: All dried beans  develop their final colour gradually, and is the best indicator of when they are fully  dried and mature. Borlotti  beans are especially fascinating: they start cream, then gradually develop their characteristic  mottled burgundy.

Tomatoes:

It’s impossible to have too many tomatoes; if you are lucky to have too many to eat fresh, then make fresh tomato soups for now, and simple sauces for the freezer: pile a large quantity of chopped ripe tomatoes, a sliced onion and any flavourings you like such as garlic/bayleaves / basil, and cook very slowly for up to 2hrs until concentrated. Remove the garlic and flavourings then sieve for a rich concentrated sauce to freeze and last through winter. Home dried tomatoes and slow roast tomatoes ( watch our webinar) are another must.

Don’t let ripe tomatoes get too ripe on the plant, pick regularly and store inside. Towards the end of their season  – watch the weather – pick the remaining trusses and bring inside, where they will continue to ripen. It’s a good idea to separate them into those to eat for now; over ripe soft tomatoes (perfect for soups, sauces, and salsas ); and those for ripening – check these regularly and remove any which turn mouldy. With luck you will have fresh tomatoes for Christmas this way !

TIP: It is a common fallacy that tomatoes store well in the fridge, their flavour and texture suffers. Kept somewhere cool they continue to ripen and develop their flavour –  they ripen at 50F/10C or above, and a good tomato will easily keep well for up to 3-4  weeks this way.

Potatoes:

Harvesting main crop potatoes is a rewarding job, and a sure sign that autumn  has arrived.  It’s simple enough but do take care when lifting, choose a dry “fruit” day if possible.

Like tomatoes, it’s worthwhile grading the potatoes into small, medium, and large depending on how you intend cooking them. For long term storage, they must be kept cool and frost-free – a garage, cellar, garden shed, unheated back bedroom. Recycled cardboard boxes are excellent to store them in, allow easy access (nice for the cook), and the potatoes can be quickly covered to exclude the light, but still breathe. Beware of potato blight. This is easy to spot ( and smells revolting), and an infected potato can ruin the rest.

TIP: Go over stored potatoes regularly; you will lose some, remove those showing mould  immediately.

TIP: Any greening of potatoes  should not be eaten – it’s poisonous: the green parts can be  scrupulously cut away, the rest of the potato is fine to eat.

TIP: Sooner or later stored potatoes will start to sprout, a sure sign their useful life is coming to an end. Cut away the areas around where the potato has sprouted before cooking.

Check out Daphne Lambert’s feature on Perfect Pumpkins here.