The Edible Garden Episode 6: The Winter Larder

The Edible Garden Episode 6: The Winter Larder

In this last episode of The Edible Garden we meet Alys Fowler who is looking at the Winter Larder.

Alys introduces herself as a writer and gardener, having grown up in the countryside she now lives in the city with her husband.

Alys gets pleasure from the simple things in life, home made bread, home grown vegetables, making things and looking after her much loved chickens.

Her garden is just 20ft by 60ft at the back of her Victorian terraced house.

This year Alys is hoping for as much home grown fruit and produce as possible and not shop bought, all grown in a beautiful but productive garden.

In this episode Alys is concentrating on getting through the Winter months by filling her pantry, pickling and preserving her produce.

The brightly coloured jars not only cheers her up through the winter but also brightens her suppers.

Her journey to make sure she was stocked for the leaner produce months started in April.

Alys has an average garden and her aim is to grow at least a 'meal a day'.

A succession planting ensured the 'hungry gap' could be filled so May was busy.

She also foraged from the wild.

The garden soon started producing and lots of delicious meals were had! With gratuitous eating shots.

Alys started storing any excess fruit and vegetables and the garden continued to look pretty with its mixed planting and also became a insect haven. 

Some not so welcome!

The weather was not as good as she had hoped with a hail storm and rain ruining some crops.

Party food was grown, eaten and even drunk!

Every day was a salad day!

A winter larder needs to have crops grown in the garden that provide plenty of excess to stock it.

Courgettes and squashes can provide an abundance of produce. 1 plant can have 20 courgettes!

Alys is planting 2 plants to provide enough for the couple and to store.

Alys is planting the variety Defender which is very disease and mildew resistant that makes it ideal for organic growers.

At the bottom she is planting a Patty Pan which is 6 weeks old, she is ensuring they have lots of rich compost.

She also made a nitrogen rich feed from nettles and water which was left to brew until very stinky.

Alys went very green adding the sludge to the plant.

June and July and the garden is growing well, the broad beans are harvested and the excess frozen for stews.

The potatoes are ready to be dug up too. Alys has grown 2 varieties salad potatoes for eating straight away and the other for storing.

To store potatoes they need to be kept in a cool dark place and can keep for months if not exposed to light.

The summer squash are producing a lot of fruit especially the small Patty Pans that Alys slices up and either fried or covered in lemon and eaten.

The courgettes are also cropping well and she is enjoying them on home made pizza as well as plenty left to preserve.

Her summer special pizza is courgettes, capers, parmesan, olives and then topped with rocket from the garden of course.

Eating shot!

For the fruit gluts Alys has done plenty of preserving. Dried apple rings, damson cheese and she forgot to mention the tasty looking leathers!

Alys also likes to preserve herbs. 

For mint tea she dries the leaves for use in the winter. 

If you do this in the sun they go a yellowy colour so she hangs them upside down in the house.

They are ready when they are dry to the touch.

Alys is off to visit preserving experts Daphne Lambert and Nish Fay-Bruin and taking some of her produce with her.

She asks what you can and cannot preserve and the answer is you can preserve anything!

They also tell her that they have nutritional benefits too.

The first lesson is how to preserve courgettes the easy way.

The recipe can be eaten straight away or preserved for a few months.

The recipe will lift the dull courgettes Alys has been growing and the vibrant colours will lift the Winter larder.

First the Perilla herb leaves are chopped, this is added to Cider apple vinegar, sliced garlic and concentrated apple juice.

A second pickling solution is made with concentrated apple juice, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon bark, juniper berries, Caraway seeds and fresh Bay leaves and Rosemary.

The courgettes and chillies are cut, top to bottom along their natural growing lines.

They add the Perilla mix and pack it all into a sterilised jar and then topping it with the second pickling solution.

Alys's garden in a jar.

It is recommended to eat with bread and salad or as a garnish to rice dishes or soup.

Next it is fermenting, a long forgotten art of preserving.

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, it doesn't sound nice and it consists of just cabbage and Caraway seeds.

For fermentation you just need salt and a jar.

The cabbage needs to be cut finely as salt is then used to extract the liquid from it.

The art is to encourage the good bacteria and not the bad bacteria that rots the food.

Once the cabbage is finely chopped, salt is sprinkled on it and then it is pounded with the end of a rolling pin.

After 10 minutes it is pounded enough and it is covered and left overnight.

The next part is to add another vegetable, it could be apples but Alys is using her Swiss Chard.

This is layered in the jar with the cabbage and Alys presses down using the rolling pin to stop any trapped air forming.

The mixture is weighted down by a cup of water to keep it submerged and then the ingredients will start bubbling over the next 24 hours.

Alys is inspired to increase her Winter larder and as she didnt grow any cabbages she is off to buy some to make more Sauerkraut.

More opportunities to increase her food stocks with the help of a glut of runner beans which she is freezing for curries and soups.

She has also preserved some using the same pickle recipe.

Alys is already planning next years garden. 

So as she will need more space the chickens are on the move next to the compost with the help of friend Dave.

The chicken run has been expanded meaning she can have more chickens in the future.

Dried seeds are next for the larder and Alys has been collecting them all Summer.

Alys is off to the river bank to forage for hidden gems.

Himalayan Balsam is either a friend or foe depending whether you are looking at it as an invasive species or a tasty snack for bees and people!

Foe I say!

The seed pods explode and it is the seeds she is after which look like apple pips but has a peppery taste in bread.

Alys sees it as plant control.

Back in the garden Alys is going to leave the multi-headed Sunflowers over the Winter for food for the birds.

The large Sunflower heads produce big seeds, which she roasts, adds salt and eats as a snack.

As the weather turns colder Alys decides it time to turn her compost. 

Autumn is a good time as the compost at the bottom of the pile should now be ready to use and more plants are cut back and added.

This compost is needed to feed the soil so she can produce good vegetables.

Alys adds all the garden waste as well as kitchen peelings but no cooked food to her heap as this attracts rats.

Compost worms are a good sign as they appear when to help with the composting process.

I am not sure letting the chickens on the pile to eat them is a good thing, worship those worms! Pete Free 🌻

Alys says by using the compost on the ground it will feed her Winter greens and give the worms a chance to take it underground.

The last of the Winter crops are being planted out.

Alys is planting Oriental Streak, a mustard salad leaf which has a peppery spicy flavour in its delicate leaves.

Next to this she is planting Radicchio Lettuce that has a bitter taste, which can be eaten small in a salad or cooked.

These need the colder days to help with the flavour and the plants need to be spaced out more to stop mould and rot.

The final harvest is Jerusalem Artichokes, with their willowy stems growing unnoticed.

Alys is off to dig them up, they are very low maintenance to look after and the tubers can be roasted or baked.

They also have a windy reputation but by cooking them with Winter Savory apparently this stops the effect? Fartichokes!

They can be left in the ground all over the Winter and dug up as you need them especially when the wife is away!! 🌀 Pete Free 🌻

To get another crop just one tuber is replanted and that is all you need to do.

Winter Savory likes to grow in a sunny well drained patch and this spicy herb will save your blushes and even marriage! Disclaimer from Pete Free 🌻

A Gratin and Harvest Supper Party is the ideal way to give all your friends wind!

The Artichokes are boiled in their skins which is then removed and they are sliced then layered on a baking dish.

A seasoning of Garlic, black pepper and the essential Winter Savoury is then added.

A carton of cream, some butter and a breadcrumb and Parmesan topping finish the dish off.

This is then baked in the oven to serve warm.

Her friends are bringing her edible gifts to add to the menu, no nettle lager I hope!

First guest and a nice looking fruit sorbet.

Second guest its vegetarian Moussaka using her own red peppers and aubergines.

Third guest its pumpkin curry.

Also on the menu is Moroccan lamb stew with kale, parsley beetroot, celery, garlic, onions and runner beans from the garden.

And then a dollop of Fartichokes.

The home grown vegetable boasting continues with a run down on the Moussaka's ingredients.

Then a toast to 'Happy Harvest'.

Final words

Alys set out to make a productive and beautiful garden, she has found a gentle way of gardening, more free and nature responsive.

It has changed the way she will garden forever.

Her garden has produced even more than she could imagine.

Alys has grown food but she has also grown happy.

All photographs are copyright of

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