Now's the time to reap the rewards of hard work by eating your way through the summer harvest, writes Justin Newcombe.
Congratulations to all those gardeners out there who managed to grow anything at all this summer - plenty of people don't, so give yourselves a pat on the back. Not that it's over yet. There are still pumpkins, avocados apples, pears, figs, kumara and the rest to come. We are in the middle of the big splurge, the summer feast, the glut, the superfluity, the overabundance. Those tomatoes you were aching for in November are now looking a little "take it or leave it", and so are all those lettuces you never got around to eating. Potatoes are being dug up and some of the more organised among us are having a go at a second crop.
There are lots of recipes out there letting you know what to do with your horticultural surpluses: preserving, cooking, saucing - the yoke of the hot oven is bearing down on you as you rattle your sustainable chain around the kitchen on your day off ... wicked. If you like the idea of preserving but can't be stuffed I recommend a deep freeze. Tomatoes, peaches, plums and the rest of that soft, sweet plenty are all welcome additions to winter's dinner table. Making pesto is fast and freezing it in ice cube trays makes it easy to use in soups and casseroles.
Beans are also good in the freezer.
There are things that don't need preservation of course, like pumpkin, potato and kumara. We've extruded our garlic and onion and have spread them about the place dutifully drying out.
Now when I'm planning my summer garden, I plant what will grow easily in my climate, soil conditions and available space and I plant what will give me the biggest yield with the most food calories. Pumpkin, potatoes, kumara, onions, garlic and beans will be planted every year as will tomatoes and cucumber. These crops always come before more marginal or experimental crops.
To make the most of the summer harvest, pick things at their best. Don't let your cucumber or courgette grow too big, or your beans for that matter, but make sure your corn cobs are not picked too early. The corn cob should have a brown beard. Pick lettuce in the morning as it wilts in the heat of the day. I've grown a few tasty berries but I certainly don't get the same yield as my Albany surprise grape. Albany surprise may be regarded as the lowest of the low in viticulture circles but it's a heavy no-nonsense cropper and the grapes are sweet as.
The neighbour's guava will be groaning in a month or two and I'll invite myself and my bucket around to give it the once-over.
Any all-star garden wouldn't be complete without the super-duper tree fruit that is without doubt the most reliable, tasty, hard cropping, number one example of playing the hits in the garden there is. If it was an All Black it would be a Meads. If it was an opera star it would be a Te Kanawa and if it was a race horse it would be a Phar Lap, but it's not. It's a fruit, and it's called a feijoa.