It’s that time of the year again – the time that neighbours stop answering the door to me. I know they’re in; I can hear the ticking of their car cooling down and see movement past the frosted glass. But no one is coming to the door and I know why. It’s the glut.
Around now most vegetable gardeners have more produce than they can ever eat. Runner beans are ridiculously productive, so very, very many that I’m picking kilos every day. And as for tomatoes, well I can see why they have that tomato fight in Spain every year; anything to get rid of them. And for weeks the courgette plants have been non-stop.
At first my neighbours accepted my gifts of surplus with cries of joy, but as the weeks passed they looked noticeably less happy to be given yet another bulging bag of courgettes and beans.
Why not freeze stuff? Well courgettes don’t freeze at all well – being mostly water they break down to mush. Make chutneys? Yes, all very well in theory and I do make some, but it’s no fun stirring red hot pans for hours and finding enough glass jars is always an issue.
But you can freeze your runner beans. They want slicing, blanching very briefly in boiling water and then put into bags. I make each bag hold enough for two portions. The only problem can be finding enough space in the freezer.
To keep runner beans going with lots of nice tender beans and not the stringy monsters you get in the shops, you need to pick every day. Get the useless ones off, which means any you can feel the bulge of beans in, and put them on the compost heap.
At this time of year, the runner beans will also be so densely leaved they present an obstacle to wind, and their heavy weight means they can be pushed over. Regularly check the poles are all in the ground firmly and that things aren’t collapsing.