Everyone who visited the allotment this weekend was focused on one task alone - picking the soft fruit. I stood with full punnets in hands as one man scurried past, "Have to pick the fruit," he muttered, "crying shame if I don't," and that was the last I saw of him for the rest of the afternoon, as after that he remained hidden behind undergrowth somewhere on his plot as he endlessly picked.
During the course of the weekend I picked blackcurrants, gooseberries, redcurrants, tayberries and raspberries. The jostaberries will have to wait for another day and there will be more raspberries by Wednesday. It is an amazing thing to grow food quicker than you can eat it and I am determined to use and preserve as much of it as I can but that does mean a lot of hard work. The clue is in the name really - kitchen gardening - once you come in from the garden there is still a heck of a lot to do in the kitchen. Mainly it involves picking over the fruit and decanting it into bags for the short term before being more creative with it later. And all this on top of the vegetables - broad beans, peas, courgettes etc. that need preparing before they can be made into something tasty for dinner.
Last year I didn't own a chest freezer and this year I marvel at that and wonder what I did with it all before preserving it. By the end of the weekend I could barely get the lid closed on my chest freezer and I had already resorted to putting bags of fruit in the kitchen freezer. Fortunately, a friend of mine had been given a large chest freezer by a relative who was downsizing and she said I could use some of the space in it if I wanted it. I almost bite her hand off at the offer and this morning I took all the bags of fruit out of my chest freezer in order to move it into hers. This allows me to continue making lollies, ice-cream, frozen veg etc. as well as continue to throw bags of fruit in as I pick more. It was particularly useful because it gave me the opportunity to gather all the bags of the same fruit together and weigh them so I knew exactly how much I had of each fruit.
Now, bear in mind that I have already made strawberry and raspberry jam as well as several batches of ice-cream, lollies, jelly and cordials. I move out 4lb 13 oz of gooseberries, 6lb 14 oz raspberries, 4lb 14 oz tayberries, 2lb 5 oz cherries, 5lb 15 oz redcurrants and 12lb 4 oz blackcurrants. Added up that works out as 37 pounds of fruit or, to put it another way, 2 stone, 9lb of fruit. That's the weight of a small child!
I gave my friend a pound of fresh raspberries as a first installment for freezer space rent (not that she asked for anything) but I'm very grateful for the breathing space it has provided.
This afternoon I used 4lbs of fresh blackcurrants to make jam but the plant still has fruit on it!