In the last edition of Season, we introduced The Walled Garden at Helen’s Bay. Since beginning our partnership, our chefs have visited The Walled Garden on a regular basis, assisting David Love Cameron in restoring the gardens to their former glory. David has introduced us to a wartime method of preservation, known as ‘clamping vegetables’, that we are very interested to experiment with in the Walled Garden in the months and years to come.
The method of ‘clamping vegetables’ can be applied to all root vegetables and potatoes, and is derived from an old World War Two method of gardening, when householders set their gardens aside to produce vegetables in a bid to counteract the effects of rationing. Whilst this may seem like an old-fashioned method of preservation, it is actually the perfect way to store vegetables without the use of a refrigerator and is a useful skill to have in your armory.
This traditional method of preserving the root vegetables was known as 'clamping' and it involved storing the vegetables in what was known as a 'clamp'. The principles were:
· To store only those vegetables that were in sound condition and to remove excess stalks and leaves that could rot in storage
· To keep the stored vegetables slightly moist so that they did not dry out while keeping out the wet which would have made them rot
· To prevent the frost getting to them
· To prevent the light getting to them.
The simplest way to try your hand at this method of preservation is the sandbox method, which could be attempted in a garage or shed, if you happen to have the space to do so. It’s a very straightforward process – just make sure any local moggies can’t access your lovingly created sandbox!
1. Dig the vegetables carefully, cut back the foliage close to the root and wash off the soil to prevent any fungal damage during storage.
2. The much cosseted vegetables are kept in a frost-free place in damp sand. As with all stored vegetables, it’s vital to keep them moist: whilst they are growing, they absorb the liquid they require, but once harvested, they stop doing so. The vegetables must be kept damp, but not wet, to prevent the dehydration that would result in wrinkly, rubbery specimens.
3. It is also important not to store vegetables close to apples. When in storage, apples give off ethylene, a gas that first encourages crops to ripen and then to decay. This could cause the dormancy of your vegetables to be broken.