The Winter Larder

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Episode 6 of 6

Duration: 30 minutes

Alys Fowler attempts to avoid shop-bought fruit and vegetables and live off her own, home-grown produce, all from her tiny terraced back garden. It's no easy task because Alys doesn't want to turn her garden into an allotment, so she's growing her fruit and vegetables among her flowers.

Alys will focus on different foods and show how anyone can grow, cook and eat from their own garden, even if they live in a city.

As well as providing fruit and vegetables to eat in season, an edible garden needs to provide for the leaner months. That means growing crops that guarantee a plentiful harvest, enough to enjoy right away and enough to store.

Alongside courgettes, squashes and kale, Alys grows Jerusalem artichokes to harvest when the rest of the garden sleeps. She also learns how to preserve the flavours of her garden using simple pickling recipes and forages for seeds in the 'wild larder'. Finally, Alys plants up winter crops to tide her over until next spring.

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See all episodes from The Edible Garden

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14 items
  • Alys on her garden and kitchen in winter

    Alys on her garden and kitchen in winter

    The end of summer comes with a great glut of produce and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But with it comes the panic of bottling, freezing and preserving as much as possible in time before it rots. My kitchen come autumn, ends up a wonderful mess of bubbling crocks and jam making pans.

    I now associate jam making so much with certain people that it is as much an act of friendship as anything else. To make jam on my own isn’t right, it’s the ritual of picking, processing and preserving with a hefty amount of gossip and giggling that, in my mind, makes good jam.

    I have become increasingly interested in low energy forms of preserving dried fruit and vegetables and fermented foods. Some were a great success such as the dried apple rings or the sauerkraut that I learnt to make with the help of The Soil Sisters; Daphne Lambert and Miche Fabre Lewin. Both are excellent cooks and with their help I learnt the art of wild fermentation which is how cabbage turns into to sauerkraut (with a little banging and salt).

    There is nothing like a cupboard full of brightly coloured jars to make you feel content come darker winter months. To crack open a jar of blackberry jelly or pickled courgettes is a testament to the garden’s bounty. However the garden can continue to provide food even in the harshest of months. There are hardy herbs such as sage, thyme, rosemary, winter lettuce and oriental greens that will grow in all but the coldest periods. My mustards, with a little fleece for protection, came through the snow and ice.

    Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips can withstand freezing temperatures - my only advice is to dig them up and store in an outdoor larder (a dustbin filled with old compost is a perfect vermin-proof larder for those without garages), as trying to dig up from frozen ground is more than a little trying.

    I have been gardening since I was 18, more years than I care to admit, as I and my gardens grow older I have begun to relax a great deal. Last winter I left my garden standing, old stems, flower heads, the lot - it stood as a celebration to a great summer. One day in the coldest moment, when covered in snow, a flurry of blue tits landed on the Verbena bonariensis seed heads and spent the morning swaying on this precarious natural bird feeder. I couldn’t tear myself away from this lovely sight - a garden very much alive, that’s full of hidden surprises and continually feeding someone.

    The Soil Sisters
  • Courgettes and Squash

    One or two courgette plants are well worth their space in the garden with their lovely architectural leaves, sumptuous yellow flowers and buckets of fruit. However they do take a while to reach their full size so try planting catch crops of cut-and-come-again lettuce or radishes to cover bare soil in early days.

    Coming in a variety of shapes and sizes there’s a squash for everyone; from tiny Patty Pan summer squashes which can be trained up frames to save space, to lovely warty Hubbard types which look like little pumpkins, squashes are simply fantastic. They can be stored or eaten straight away and bring much needed colour and carbohydrate into the winter kitchen.

    BBC Gardening - Courgettes and Squash
  • Raddichio – Red Chicory

    Needing cold weather to mellow the bitterness associated with most (unblanched) chicory. If you want to harvest all winter then grow under cover, this is well worth doing as the flavour only improves as the temperature drops. Sow in June for autumn harvests and in August for winter crops.

    BBC Gardening – Chicory
  • Jerusalem artichokes

    Not great at looking after plants? Then get some of these. Put a tuber or two in the ground in winter or early spring and enjoy the tall yellow flowered plants until late October/November when you can harvest the new tubers. Chuck one or two back for next year and there you go, simple winter food.

    More on growing Jerusalem artichokes
  • Seasonal gluts and how to store them

    Getting the most out of your garden can sometimes be as simple as not letting anything go to waste. Don’t let fruit fall or rot on the ground, get into making jams and freezing excess vegetables.

    If you can, harvest plants early in the morning and also try and harvest plants that have recently had a good water as this will help extended the store life.

    BBC Food – a guide to jams, freezing and storing vegetables
  • Sauerkraut

    In this episode Alys found out how to make Sauerkraut from The Soil Sisters. It’s a form of wild fermentation and uses natural yeasts and salt to preserve cabbage.

    More on sauerkraut


Alys Fowler
Juliet Glaves
Executive Producer
Gill Tierney


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