Whilst talking to the South African mum last week, she excitedly told me about her first ever harvest from her allotment. It was a few French Breakfast radishes. She said they were so hot and peppery that they burned but she ate them anyway because she'd grown them! Good for her, I say.
To be honest, I can't remember my first ever harvest, although I have fond memories of that summer when I first grew my own vegetables. But I do enjoy first harvests and there are a lot of them to be had in a gardening year. For example, back in March we enjoyed the first fresh harvest of the year when the sprouting broccoli became available from plants sown in the previous year. Then the first of the perennials were ready to harvest when the asparagus and rhubarb started growing again. This weekend we too harvested some radishes, the first harvest from seeds sown this year. Even better, it was my daughter who had grown them so there were her first harvest too! Still to come, we'll have the first soft fruit and then the first new potatoes... and so it goes on.
With the arrival of the first crops and the imminent arrival of many more, it is also time to think about using up the last of the stored and preserved food in order to make room for the impending glut. Each cake, biscuit or flapjack I bake at the moment has to utilise a homemade preserve of some type. Each dinner needs to use a batch of frozen veg or a dollop of chutney. My husband has beetroot houmous in this sandwiches this week whether he likes it or not, and yesterday I used up the last 2 lb of frozen raspberries to make raspberry cordial.
The raspberry cordial was a particular success. I'd not made it before and I invented it by modifying my recipe for blackcurrant cordial. Raspberries, being much sweeter, required less additional sugar and the use of red grape juice also lessened the need for granulated sugar. My youngest daughter (we call her the fruit monster due to her love of fruit) tried it first and said "it tastes just like fresh raspberries," before downing the glassful. My eldest (the fussy eater) tackled it next and simply stated, "nice," after a small sip. She too finished a glassful over time. So I imagine we will probably get through the 4 bottles fairly quickly but I think it could easily be made in jelly or poured onto ice-cream and other desserts. Add it to vanilla ice-cream and give a brief stir and you'd have instant raspberry ripple ice-cream. Definitely one for the recipe book.
2 lb raspberries
1 pint red grape juice
1 lb granulated sugar
Gently heat the raspberries in the red grape juice in a large pan for a few minutes until the raspberries have broken up. Strain the liquid through a nylon (not metal) sieve. For every pint of liquid, weigh out 8 oz granulated sugar. Clean the pan and return the liquid to it, along with the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar then remove from the heat. Pour into warmed bottles and seal. Refrigerate once cooled. Dilute to taste. The cordial should be OK for several weeks but if you wish to increase the shelf life, heat up the sealed bottles in a pan of water to roughly 75°C for about half an hour. Note, however, this will slightly alter the flavour of the cordial.