By Moyna Hargest

At Claver Hill Community Garden we grow seasonal vegetables and fruit, and we love to preserve the best of the seasons. Seasonal produce doesn’t need any artificial inputs such as warmth and light which all use energy. All the energy the plants use to produce their crops comes from the sun, so our produce has a minimal impact on global warming.

But best of all, growing and harvesting plants as nature intended gives the best tasting vegetables and fruit as they are not forced to grow earlier than the climate in Lancaster allows.

Sometimes we get far more of a crop than we can use or give away, which is called a ‘glut’. Making preserves with this surplus is one way of ensuring that these foods can be enjoyed for months to come.
All cultures preserve foods to carry them through the ‘hungry months’ when there is little fresh produce to be had. Examples are Sauerkraut and Kimchi, and traditionally we make chutneys, jams and pickles such as Piccalilli.

These days a lot of food is frozen which uses energy. It’s a better idea to preserve fruit and vegetables in things like jam, pickles, relishes, chutney, vegan honey, cider and cider vinegar. All these are made by a few of us at Claver Hill to raise funds towards the running of the community garden. Jars are donated by members of the community, thoroughly checked for any damages (especially the lids to ensure the seals are intact), then washed and sterilised before reusing.

We sell these preserves at the seasonal markets in Lancaster Market Square in March, June, September and December as well as on Potato Day in January. Occasional we have stalls at the community garden itself.

All the fruit trees we have at Claver Hill are heritage varieties which you can buy only rarely in markets and garden centres around harvest time. They have an amazing range of flavours, sizes and shapes. These heritage varieties don’t fit the ideals of supermarkets, which is why large scale growers now tend to specialise in a few well known varieties that give uniform size and which they can chill for months before sale.

It’s important to keep these diverse fruit trees growing for ecological diversity, but they are worthwhile for their deliciousness alone.

Foraging food can be great fun and part of the Claver Hill nature trail is a foraging area, where walkers can help themselves to what is growing. There’s a lot of free seasonal food available in hedgerows such as rosehips, sloes, damsons, bullaces, raspberries and blackberries to name a few which all can be enjoyed fresh or in preserves of all kinds.

You can get your hands on some of the delicious Claver Hill preserves at Lancaster’s Spring Market on 17 March 2023.

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