I must be one of the world's worst vegetable gardeners. Every year I walk around my in-laws' fantastic plot and promise to do better. Every year I respond enthusiastically to various management directives and plant increasingly exotic and disastrous crops. For every couple of disasters there is always a massive glut, which is even more hopeless. There are only so many giant yellow courgettes you can eat. This year we also had huge quantities of rhubarb (as ever) and raspberries (I wish I hadn't bought an autumn fruiting variety), with a good crop of plums too. Previously this would have resulted in a lot of head scratching and shrugging of under-gardener shoulders, but now salvation is at hand in the shape of Pam Corbin.
Pam runs courses on preserves at The River Cottage and has also written a book you should buy immediately - Preserves
also published by River Cottage. Our life has been transformed. Courgettes and rhubarb? Mix with ginger to make jam (delicious). Raspberries - jam and vinegar. Plums - jam and chutney. Not only have we actually been using the produce of my useless vegetable patch, but we have also been foraging to good effect. We've always made Elderflower syrup and Sloe gin, but now we have Rose Hip syrup, from all the Field Roses I've planted to gap up the hedges, and Elderberry vinegar. How very bucolic.