Monday, August 28, 2006

Free Food

Free food – who can resist a freebie?

Have you every sat and thought how much food you can get for free – and with a bit of imagination – and work – you can turn it into delicious things to eat.

Those of you who grow vegetables already realise, that from one seed – for example a runner bean seed – you literally get dozens and dozens of free food – and if you let a few pods grow large and save the seed – then you get next year’s crops for free – ad infinitum. So seed saving should be high on everyone’s list at this time of year.

I try to save the seed from peas, and beans, but often other seed is hard to save as the plants do not always come ‘true’ unless you have them isolated of course.

I have left one plant at the end of this row of my first to crop beans for seeds for next year.

This is a later sowing of beans, and I am leaving one plant in the middle that has unusual colourings for seeds too. That is the fun - wondering what will grow from them.

The pea and bean family seeds are so easy to save and keep over winter for next season, but I have never been successful with salad seeds. Onions are a good one to try, but the inclement weather often means that you lose them to the wind or rain unless you keep them covered. Pumpkin and courgette seeds are others that are easy to save – but are notorious for cross ‘breeding’ so you won’t know exactly what you will get until they grow – which often doesn’t matter.

Today I have been very industrious and have been on the hunt for free food – well fruit in particular to use to make jam.

My horoscope yesterday said that I would be getting a windfall – a large sum of money from a long lost uncle of aunt (a bit difficult as I don’t have any) but it did make me laugh.

Instead I got windfalls of a different nature – apples – bags of them, which I have been peeling and packing for hours.

Coming back from a visit to town, I notice a lady walking along a lane with a carrier bag.

‘That lady has got a bag of apples’ I said to Pat. ‘How do you know that it has apples in it?’ he said, ‘it could be anything’.

‘It is definitely apples, as she never walks from that direction – there have got to be windfalls along there somewhere’

He laughed disbelieving me, but good humouredly he took the next left turn past the windmill and along the lane – driving slowly (there wasn’t any traffic) whilst I scoured the front driveways for the tell tale box or bags – to no avail. But I was convinced that there were apples around there somewhere. So we did a U turn and went towards the mere and lo and behold we found a stall outside a house. Carrier bags with windfall apples in for donations to a local charity – out I jumped and donated for three bags.

When I returned home, in the porch was a bag of apples – windfalls – a neighbour had been given them. She had taken a few out to make a pie and had left me the rest. I rewarded her with half a dozen eggs and a jar of jam.

Another friend called me to say that she had a bag of apples for me, and got her husband to drop them off in the porch too!

I was mindful of the saying ‘one good turn deserves another’ and felt incredibly grateful for people’s kindness – and told them both so. But they reminded me that since I have had my allotment, I have deposited a lot of ‘free food’ on their doorsteps too – but I didn’t do it for any reward – I did it for the pleasure I get from seeing their faces and knowing how much they appreciate fresh grown veggies.

So fast forward to this afternoon – when we had hailstones would you believe – and I was sat in my conservatory with a tray on my lap, bags of apples to my left, and a huge bowl to my right, and a recycle bin in front of me.

After cutting out all the bruises, and ‘dodgy’ bits, I still ended up with 13 pounds of apples. I have 11 bags prepared and vacuum packed in the freezer, I made Pat (and me) a huge blackberry and apple crumble (which we will be having a little of each day.

I made another batch of blackberry and apple jam – which turned out brilliantly, and I still have half a bag of cooking apples left. So I shall be raiding the freezer for frozen fruit to make even more apple & jam combinations.

My windowsill has a row of ripening squash (mini pumpkins) on it, and a butternut squash that narrowly escaped decapitation by the lawn mower as it had broken out of it’s enclosure, together with others and was growing across the lawn, hidden under some huge leaves.

From a few seeds, I have dozens of pumpkins and squash – free food in my mind as one seed replaced itself hundreds of times.

In the coming days, I hope to gather some hips, haws, and berries, to make some more concoctions – together with some windfall apples too.

I can afford to buy apples, etc. but when I buy from a supermarket, I can not be sure that they have not been radiated to prolong the life, or waxed to improve their looks, or been transported thousands of miles, sometimes from the other side of the world, or sprayed with any chemicals.

The windfalls might have the odd maggot hole, and some had earwigs in them (I can hear some of you say ‘yuk’and shiver.) But those creatures have just been living in the core of the apple – not munching the whole lot! And you can be sure of one thing – it won’t have been treated with anything nasty or they wouldn’t be there!


  1. when i was a girl there was a man in our neighborhood who had saved his garden seed for years. he was in his 70's at that time. i wish my father had been smart enought to get seeds from him. maybe we could have them today i have a pint jar in my freezer of my grandmothers beans seeds. i grew a crop 2 years ago and saved seed. i think i will plant them next spring and get fresh seeds. you can save seeds from any thing that is not a hibarde. i am going to search on the net for your bean seed that has red flowers. che. trail of tears seeds.your apple and berry jam is so pretty.

  2. I just discovered your blog - what wonderful place to visit!!

    My gramma and grampers saved seeds from everything they grew. They also saved from what they considered the heartiest plants - like those that would last longer in a drought. I have lots of seeds they have given me over teh years and I selectly use them in my own garden. I then save from what I grow. :)

  3. Wow-that is amazing jam. I'm not a jam maker but did try out cherry freezer jam. We have good lookng apples developing so I better start planning. Funny your post today. I was in the grocery store yesterday for the first time in what seems like months, just to get a few things. My hubby has stopped for some items, but not so much shopping this summer thanks to the garden, eggs & raspberries from one neighbor, blueberries from the other. You might like what I posted today too. Thanks for the tip to ripen early pumpkins.

  4. PS - it is really fun to share with those who want it also! Several co-workers seem to like fresh veggies so they got bundles of fresh green beans today. Then, we'll all discuss the different ways we all cooked them as we all came from different places.

  5. Thanks one and all for our lovely comments - and welcome revee - so nice of you to visit.

    I am envious of those who have inherited seeds - or indeed have lovely memories of their parents and grandparents gardening and seed saving.

    At one time it as a way of life and a necessity wasn't it. Now it is considered 'fashionable' daft isn't that

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