Rhubarb masterclass: best expert content

Red stems of rhubarb on a wooden table

Rhubarb stems are delicious in crumbles, jams and tarts
Image: Rhubarb ‘Fulton’s Strawberry Surprise’ (Spring/Autumn Planting) from T&M

Rhubarb is a delicious, perennial crop that’s easy to grow in gardens and allotments. Planted in autumn or spring, the brightly-coloured and tart-flavoured stems quickly grow to produce fantastic crumbles, jams and seasonal drinks! Here we’ve pulled together some of the best advice from independent bloggers, YouTubers and Instagram gardeners to help you plant, divide, force and harvest your crop for optimum results.

Ready to get planting? Browse our full range of rhubarb crowns and plants to find the best variety for your garden.

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Daffodils masterclass: best expert content

Group of narcissus in glass vase

Daffodils make delightful cut flowers in spring
Image: Narcissus ‘Value Mixed’ from T&M

If you want to pack your garden with bursts of spring colour, look no further than daffodils! These popular flowering spring bulbs offer a fabulous assortment of scent, double blooms and multi-headed stems. Here we’ve gathered the best online advice from top independent bloggers to help you choose and care for your daffodils.

When you’re ready to plant, take a look at our quality daffodil and narcissus bulbs and order online for quick delivery.

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Planting roses in autumn

Light yellow rose with closed rosebuds

Get your roses off the best start by planting bare root roses
Image: Rose ‘Belle du Jour’ (hardy shrub) from T&M

Late autumn and early spring are the traditional times of year for planting roses, but to get them off to the best possible start, thorough ground preparation and careful planting are key. Available as containerised plants, container-grown plants and bare root roses, we take a look at the main differences between each type and explain how to plant them correctly. 

Keen to add more of these classic beauties to your planting scheme? Browse our full range of roses including floribunda, hybrid tea roses, climbing varieties and hedging roses.

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Courgette and parmesan soup

Courgette and Parmesan Soup

Aimee Clark
This creamy soup is perfect for using up a glut of courgettes and a great way to make use of those extra-large courgettes! You can add extra parmesan to the soup when you serve, some fresh chilli and even a swirl of cream depending on your taste.
Course Main Course, Soup

Ingredients
  

  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic - chopped
  • Handful mixed herbs - fresh basil works really well, as does oregano, chives and parsley
  • salt and pepper - to taste
  • 1 kg courgettes - chopped into small chunks
  • 1 fresh chilli - optional
  • 750 ml stock
  • 50 g freshly grated parmesan  - plus extra to serve
  • Swirl of single cream - to serve

Instructions
 

  • Gently cook the chopped courgettes, garlic and herbs in a heavy based saucepan until the courgette has begun to soften.
  • Season generously with salt and black pepper. You can also some chopped fresh chilli at this stage if you wish!
  • Add the stock and simmer until the courgette is completely softened - about 10 minutes.
  • Blend the soup until smooth - if you wish you can keep back some of the cooked courgette and add into the rest of the blended soup to give some texture.
  • Now add in your parmesan cheese and stir until it has melted into the soup. You can now add more salt and pepper to taste and then add in the cream at this point if you wish, although I find that when using a large courgette it is already quite creamy!
  • Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan on top and some extra black pepper, if you wish!
  • Enjoy!
Keyword courgette, seasonal vegetables, soup, vegetables
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

The best way to preserve tomatoes

Tomatoes in a bowl

Mandy’s cooked tomato passata is a great way to use cherry tomatoes
Image: MandyCanUDigIt

Wondering what to do with a glut of tomatoes? Lovely as it is to receive a bumper harvest of any crop, when it all comes at once, you can’t possibly eat it all. Friends and neighbours will only take so much, and it’s such a shame to see all your delicious food go past its best and end up on the compost heap. 

We asked gardening bloggers what they do when they haven’t been able to resist growing too many tomato plants. If you’re looking for new ways to preserve your tomatoes, here are six great ideas to try…

  1. Homemade passata
  2. Dried tomatoes
  3. Tomato chutney
  4. Tomato relish
  5. Pickled tomatoes
  6. Tomato-based ‘ready meals’

1. Homemade passata

Homemade tomato passata

Homemade passata can be frozen or preserved in jars and bottles
Image: Tin & Thyme

A central part of a Mediterranean diet, passata offers a taste of summer and is the perfect base for pasta sauces, chillies and more. For the true Italian method, wash and prep your tomatoes, removing the seeds, then blanch them in boiling water until they soften and the skins begin to peel. Now push through a sieve or mouli, until only the skins remain.

Sterilise your storage jars or bottles, add a leaf or two of fresh basil to each, and stir salt into the tomato paste just before pouring. Fill your jars to within a couple of centimetres of the top, then seal and boil for at least half an hour and allow to cool overnight.

Looking for a quicker result? Choclette, from Tin & Thyme makes her easy tomato sauce by blitzing all the raw ingredients in a blender before reducing it at a low simmer on the hob. See her recipe for the full method, and to discover why a dash of tamari can make all the difference to the final flavour!

Short on freezer space? Mandy, at MandyCanUDigIt, also uses the hob to produce a deliciously rich and super-concentrated tomato sauce that’s suitable for freezing. For full instructions check out her post on how to deal with a bumper crop of tomatoes.

And if you’re going to preserve anything successfully, you’ll need to know how to sterilise your bottles and jars. Choclette’s detailed instructions over at Tin & Thyme will help you with the process, whether you prefer the dishwasher, oven, microwave or water bath method. As she says, “there’s nothing more disappointing than opening a jar of mould.”

2. Dried tomatoes

Dehydrated tomato crisps

Monika makes tomato crisps using a dehydrator
Image: @monikabrzoza

One of the best ways to preserve tomatoes is to dehydrate them, says Carla Whitehouse from @flowers_and_veg_at_no_57.The ancient practice of removing moisture from fresh fruit and veg, meat and fish, read Carla’s post explaining how dehydrating fresh food stops “micro-organisms like yeast, mould, and bacteria from growing, and preserves food for future use while keeping nutrients intact.”

Monika Brzoza, who shares beautiful photography via @monikabrzoza (and runs a professional gardening business via @BloomingSistersLondon) says dehydrating is also her favourite preservation method. She stores her dried tomatoes in herb oil with some chillies added or loose in airtight jars – oh, and she saves some to serve as crisps which she says taste lovely sprinkled with salt and garlic pepper!

If you don’t have a dehydrator, simply use your oven to dry your tomato glut. Just cut into slices and spread in a single layer over a baking tray or rack, and pop them in the oven on a low heat until brittle. Kev at An English Homestead says he “dries carrots and tomatoes to use in stews and soups. I store these in jars so no plastic is used and I have some open-fronted shelves in a purpose-built pantry so we know how much we have left.

3. Tomato chutney

Tomato chutney on black pepper cracker

Katie at The Marmalade Teapot makes this delicious tomato chutney
Image: The Marmalade Teapot

Who can resist the aroma from a bubbling pan of spicy tomato chutney? Katie at The Marmalade Teapot says: “one of my favourite & most popular preserves is my tomato chutney. It’s great with cheese, in sandwiches, salads or even tossed through some pasta. I like to pot this up into little chutney jars & give away as gifts over the festive period.” Does that sound tempting? Head over to Katie’s blog for the full method – this is a really delicious recipe that anyone can try.

4. Tomato relish

Spicy tomato chutney

Eli and Kate relish the opportunity to make…relish
Image: In the Garden with Eli and Kate

If you like a little heat, you might also consider making this spicy tomato relish. Over at the popular blog and YouTube channel, In the Garden with Eli and Kate, the ladies used up the last of the beefsteak ‘Marmane’ tomatoes from their greenhouse by doing just that.

You’ll need to skin your tomatoes for this recipe. An easy process, Eli says all you need to do is, “make a cross in the bottom then put them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Take them out and plunge them in ice water for 30 seconds. The skin comes right off.” Do check out their blog post for the full instructions.

A good tip for home chutney-makers comes courtesy of Richard from The Veg Grower Podcast. He prefers a long slow cook to release all the flavours, and so uses a slow cooker. If you do have to use a large saucepan, he says, “one key thing I learned is that when making chutneys over a few hours, make sure to give the mixture a little stir every now and then so as not to let the mixture catch.”

5. Pickled tomatoes

Man holding tomatoes in box

Sam Corfield is a huge fan of pickled tomatoes
Image: @the_hairy_horticulturist

Sam, aka the Hairy Horticulturist, is a big fan of pickling. He says, “you might disagree but I believe you can pickle anything and I’m a big fan of pickled onions, beetroot, cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes and cucamelons… Grab some vinegar, reuse some glass jars and discover endless recipes online! Get on, give it a try, you won’t regret it.

When people think of pickles, they often think of hard veg like onions or beetroot, but you can easily pickle tomatoes too. Looking for a recipe? Head over to BBC Food for full ingredients and instructions from much-loved cookery expert Nigel Slater – all you need is vinegar, pickling spice, sterilised glass jars, a saucepan and a sense of culinary adventure.

6. Tomato-based ‘ready meals’

Collection of tomato and garlic

Rich tomato-based ready meals are a winter life-saver says Claire Crawford
Image: @sowing_at_the_stoop

Because tomatoes make such a great base for sauces and stews, it’s a good idea to batch cook your glut and freeze it down so that you’ve always got a tasty home-made ready meal waiting for you in the freezer when you’re late home from work, or in too much of a rush to cook from scratch. Richard at The Veg Grower Podcast told us that he likes to stock his freezer with homemade curries, stews and bolognaise to see him through the cold winter months.

Claire Crawford, at @sowing_at_the_stoop, makes a great pasta sauce which she pops into the freezer ready for dark winter evenings. The method? “Roast tomatoes and courgettes with onions and garlic, and some fresh rosemary in a little oil.” Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees until the tomatoes begin to caramelise. Once they’ve cooled, blitz with a hand blender, and freeze. Claire says, “it’s delicious stirred through pasta for a meat-free meal, or poured over cod and baked again in the oven.”

Andrew Oldham at Life on Pig Row uses a similar recipe and technique – he says “Remember that this sauce will reduce more when you come to cook it again so add water to the pan and cook it through before adding to cooking meat.

We hope our suggestions on preserving tomatoes give you some great ideas for dealing with your own tomato glut. Whether you decide to freeze, dry, pickle, oven roast or stew your fruit, do make sure you use it up. As Andrew says, even if your tomatoes are a little past their best, “don’t chuck them, sauce them!”

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