When you grow your own fruit, vegetables and greenhouse crops you fully understand the time and effort that is invested into every mouthful. The Grow Your Own fanatic is not going to waste a morsel; every tomato, bean and cucumber will be devoured with relish, or simply pickled, jammed or chutneyed, or just eaten fresh from the plant. Even misshapen produce will be treasured and transformed into risotto, chutneys and stews and every richly flavoured morsel savoured or preserved. There is simply nothing that compares to the flavour of home grown, freshly picked food. Whether you have a little garden lean-to greenhouse, or the full on Hartley Botanic glasshouse, there is no excuse for not sowing and growing great things to eat, pretty much all year round.
By summer the dream of self-sufficiency can become a reality for the greenhouse grower and vegetable gardener. Certainly in some departments there could and should be a glut or two, but rather than thinking of the negatives, embrace the greenhouse bounty and create new ways of using these hard grown treasures. Tomatoes can be juiced, made into sauce, sun dried or chutneyed, or why not make tomato marmalade, tomato tarts and soups for the freezer. The flavour of summer warm tomatoes is quite simply divine and the greenhouse grower has plenty to eat and share by late summer, don’t waste a single one, each one is precious.
Every year creates different excesses and of course there’s always a lot of any one thing when they are ready to harvest, whether it’s greenhouse peaches, bunches of basil or courgettes. The secret for future years is not to sow all the seeds at once but instead stagger the sowing by growing a little every 2-3 weeks; it really makes a difference. You can then benefit from early crops, but continue to enjoy the same vegetable for weeks on end – right into the autumn. This is particularly useful for the greenhouse grower, who extends the growing season at both ends, enjoying early crops when the same produce in the shops is either imported or extortionate in price, and benefitting from later sown produce until the temperature inside the greenhouse drops too low to support further growth.
It does take time to preserve, bottle, jam and freeze fruit and vegetables. But, with the price of food rising, and the health benefits from growing and eating your own food are so huge, it really does make sense. Plus, if you don’t use garden chemicals (and you really shouldn’t need to) the home-grown food is even more precious since it will be equivalent to organic produce that commands such a high price in the shops, but without the normally associated air miles to get it to your kitchen. From plot to plate for the greenhouse gardener, is normally food metres rather than food miles.
Most gardeners choose to grow what they like to eat and that makes prefect sense, no point in growing something you don’t really like. However, it is still worth trying something new and swapping produce with other growers. When you have a glut of greenhouse herbs or salads, or a few extra plants that you don’t have room for, give them to a gardening friend for them to enjoy. Spread the produce around between neighbours and they will quickly latch on to the idea. A colander of gooseberries, a bunch of herbs, a handful of home laid eggs, or a basket of beans makes the perfect impromptu gift for friends. Sometimes they are better received than shop bought flowers, and maybe the enhanced tastes and flavours will get them thinking that it really is time for them to start growing and to invest in a greenhouse.