Top garden fruits for making jam: The surprising reason why YOU should make your own jam

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With many more households turning to home-grown alternatives for shop-bought herbs, fruit and vegetables – there are more of us than ever with a range of summer fruits spread across our garden ready to be eaten before the winter sets in. Making homemade jam out of an abundance of sweet, ripe fruit seems an obvious solution – but the health benefits of doing so are often overlooked. Express.co.uk spoke to the experts to reveal the top fruits you should be using for that autumnal jar of jam – and the surprising reasons why it’s better for you to do it yourself.

Lockdown has introduced many Britons to new at-home hobbies with almost half of UK households taking up gardening – and in particular, growing their own produce.

According to Weleda, 7.4 million people tried this for the first time and there is no doubt that there are plenty of us continuing to produce our own crops for that fresh garden to table taste.

Why now is the prime time for homemade jam

Most fruit crops are ripe and ready come autumn, so as we near the very end of August – this bank holiday weekend might just be the perfect time for you to harvest up your fruit and make some jam.

Whether you’ve made it before or you’re a first-timer for homemade jam, the benefits of using fresh, homegrown fruit to fill your own jam-jars is unmatched by the shop-bought alternatives – (however good they may taste).

Autumn is the perfect time of year to pick fruits for a sweet, fresh jam – as the crops have had time to cultivate ahead of their harvest, giving them that balanced sweet yet sour tang.

The benefits of homemade jam

Speaking to Express.co.uk, J Parker’s, one of the leading plant and bulb companies in the UK, provided their expertise on why homemade jam is the way forward for a healthier toast-topping.

Shannen Godwin from J Parker’s said: “Growing an edible garden offers plenty of satisfaction and DIY-ing jam is a very convenient method to deal with the fruit leftovers, minimising the waste.”

“If people enjoy eating jam throughout the week, as a topping for toast, scones or any other treats, it’s best to consider making your own, as the homemade version is highly rewarding health-wise and is a great pastime.”

The natural sugar content in fruit is where the main health benefits stem from in homemade jam – unlike the synthetic or processed sugar in shop-bought jam, your DIY sweet-treat offers a more natural sweet element which mixes with your blood to give the right energy to your body.

Homemade jam offers illness-fighting properties through its pectin content which can prevent sweating due to internal diseases, and boasts cancer-fighting antioxidant power.

J Parker’s says that the antioxidant power of pectin can help reduce the risk of getting various cancers, particularly colon-rectum, mouth, and stomach cancer.

Other health benefits of homemade fruit jam include:

  • Heart pain relief
  • Chunky jam can reduce risk of heart attacks, stroke and other potential cardiovascular diseases
  • Homemade jam consumption can reduce pregnancy risks including spina bifida and anencephaly during foetal development

What fruit can be turned into jam?

Homemade jam is made from pieces of fruit that are chopped, crushed, and cooked with sugar until pectin is released – it should then be thickened to achieve a spreadable consistency.

Shannen said: “To make this work, the most commonly used fruits include berries, grapes, and stone fruit.

“But these are not the only ones you can use – the sky’s the limit when it comes to the varieties you can choose from.”

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Berries

Berries are the most seasonal choice of fruits for autumnal jam as they are in prime harvest across most varieties.

These include softer fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

Berries are usually ready to harvest between late spring and early autumn, depending on the variety, but it is usually four to six weeks after blossoming.

Make sure berries are not soft before they’re harvested.
Harvest lasts for three weeks and you can pick almost every other day.

Citrus fruits

These include oranges and kumquats – oranges are particularly high in pectin which is great for reaping the health benefits of homemade jam.

Most citrus fruits require warm sunny weather so plant your oranges at least six weeks after the last frost date to ensure consistently warm soil and air temperatures.

Most citrus fruits are ready to pick in winter. Oranges and grapefruit, for instance, are picked from December to May.

Pome fruits

Pome fruits also have very high levels of pectin and mature well when grown in full sunlight.

Your apples and pears are great jam-making pome fruits and will taste even better after a particularly hot summer – but when should you grow them?

J Parker’s told Express.co.uk: “The apple cox’s orange pippin, a red-tinted apple with very juicy flesh, starts flowering in April and May.

“Its white flowers attract butterflies and birds into the garden. This particular variety does well in non-acidic, well-drained soil in sunny areas of the garden.”

Stone fruits

These include fruits like apricots, plums and cherries which can be quite low in pectin, so require a little more sugar to achieve that jammy consistency.

From April to May, the early apricot variety blooms with beautiful flowers that encourage birds and butterflies into the garden.

J Parker’s suggests that stone fruits like the apricot taste better when grown at home compared to the varieties bought at the shop.

  • Experts recommend that If you’re in the most exposed and northern areas in the UK, it is best to plant it in a cold glasshouse.
  • Stone fruits are highly seasonal and most varieties won’t ripen until after they’ve been harvested.

Spring is prime time for apricots and cherries, while plums can be harvested from the third week of August, through to the Autumn and are best when left to ripen on the tree.

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