Quick fixes for the domestic gardener relate to salvaging something from your labour. You’re not growing specifically for money, (in fact, as a consumer, you’re on the other side of that coin), so you’re finding uses and spaces for fruit and vegetables and something similar for your flowers and off-cuts. Gardening is a ‘lifelong learning’ topic, so here’s one of the quick fixes for problems I’ve found:
Rhubarb stems are the only edible part of the plant (some sixth sense perhaps in Himself and his bestie Daragh made them push the lovely green salad around the plate and then hand it back to me when I offered rhubarb leaves to them to eat?). Rhubarb leaves are INEDIBLE if you like living in the here and now. Daffodil bulbs are also inadvisable, which was capricious of God, given that onions, carrots, potatoes and even those plain ugly rocks we’ve learned to call turnips are delicious.
After about three seasons you understand the concept of ‘quantities’ and how much to grow.
Alcohol, freezing and sugar: three is the magic number in preservatives?
One rhubarb plant is enough to feed us, scour saucepans, and provide ample cooling shade for the bugs and worms who can dive under the soil for both days of the year it gets summery here in Ireland. From that one plant (I’ve a wan doppelganger in a pot on the back patio in case the healthy one becomes a non-cropper some winter) we got last year’s full supply of rhubarb. Mostly it got stewed and I froze a drawer’s worth of it in the freezer. It got made into one batch of rhubarb and ginger jam, but that was by default.
I’m very sorry Mr and Mrs Crabbie but your ginger wine is gick. Maybe it’s supposed to be. Guinness is also gick. (Sharp intake of breath! This woman’s a heretic! A heretical hypocrite!*) Yes, it touches on blasphemy when an Irishwoman says that porter or stout is an acquired taste for most people, as is all alcohol, so Crabbie’s Ginger Wine may have started life as a preservative for ginger, or a ginger-flavoured preservative for everything that tastes wonderful with ginger, like rhubarb, or spongecake or biscuit mix.
We tried mixing the ginger wine with whiskey, we tried it with grapefruit juice, we tried it with port. There’s only so much scientific interest to be mustered when you want to get bladdered. So, as it was Himself’s turn to have a tipple after a hard day’s physical labour, I quickly disposed of it by whacking it into the rhubarb stew and disguising the tart stems with a dollop of granulated sugar and more raw ginger. No. I can’t patent it and tell you it’s wonderful. The amount of sugar I dolloped in to disguise the ‘wine’ took the distinctive flavor from the rhubarb. The granulated sugar got doubled by the pink jelly setting powder I sprinkled through it to make the stewed fruit set. So now I’ve enough stewed, fortified, jellied rhubarb to last a month of adding it to porridge for breakfast or custard for dessert.
The ‘Quick Fix’ here is firstly, finding a good use for the Ginger Wine. That has been deemed, finally, Quite Good. Then, I needed a quick fix for the mushiness of the jam. So, I added some properly cooked (it still had bite in it) rhubarb to the overly mushy batch, and it improved the texture, taste (diluted the sugar content), and gave me twice as much Good jam (next step up from Quite Good), to be frozen in smaller quantities.
*I acquired a voluminous taste for it. If I knew then…what I know now….sigh.