Monthly Archives: November 2013

Apple Daze

DSC_0313I have 3 apple trees in the old orchard.  One is definitely a Bramley – but the other 2 – I have no idea.  Of the mystery 2, one has a lovely golden-yellow colour.  The taste is crisp, juicy, though not overly sweet.  The other one is a small, green and red and a bit tough.  I’ve been testing the pickability (is that a word?) of the golden apple.  You are not meant to wrench them off the tree as has been my approach in the past – nor throw sticks at them, (guilty) – nor violently shake the tree so that they all, (hopefully), cascade round your ears.  No sir – you have to cusp the apple in your hand and gently roll the apple upwards with a twist – if it is ripe then the apple, plus stalk, will come free.  If it doesn’t come free then leave alone.  Keeping the stalk on is supposed to help the apples store for longer, (the varieties that are suitable for storing that is).

DSC_0291The blemish-free fruits I shall place on slatted trays in the apple store.  Anything less than perfect will be given to a good home for turning to wine or cider, (of which, hopefully, some will come back our way!   I shall try a combination of the Bramley and the gold apple in a crumble.  The Bramley cooks to a puree; I’m hoping the golden apple will hold its shape and not break down thereby achieving a mix of fluff and apple in the crumble.

I think the light is so lovely at this time of year with the low sun, bright skies and a crisp chill in the air.  We light a wood fire every evening now.

Christmas is coming…..

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Reading this week:  The Garden: A Year at Home Farm by Dan Pearson.

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The World is Orange

DSC_0256I LOVE squashes.  In recipes they can tilt towards sweet or savoury.  The shapes are amazing and the colour! – well you just know it’s autumn.  I stick to those squashes with a good dense orange flesh; Golden Hubbard, Uchi Kuri, and the like.  I love them so much that I couldn’t resist a still life alongside my trusty, ancient, no longer produced, pair of Timberlands.   Yes, that much loved pair (now mark 2) that when they wore out the OH carried a boot on each trip to the states to try to track down a replacement – manly braving such comments as ‘You do realise these are ladies boots, sir?’.

So in celebration of that most glorious colour – a few more tilts to the tango sideDSC_0303compressed of life.  First up, we did produce some carrots this year – though of course when I say we, I mean that in the most general sense as it was the OH that threw some carrot seed on top of the spent pots of spring bulbs.  I then ignored them for the rest of the summer.  Some of the carrots are tending towards the corkscrew and none are very big but a light scrub, a quick chop, and voila! a welcome addition, along with the squash, to a stick-to-the-ribs slow cooked beef stew. For the chemists, the orange colour in both carrots and squashes is due to the pigment beta-carotene.

Finally, I couldn’t resist – (definitely not a stew ingredient)  – a picture of a punchy male robin that hangs round our back door.

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Past Times

DSC_0232Forget the Amelanchier as a must have tree for a small garden – everyone should have a medlar (Mespilus germanica).  A great little tree with bags of seasonal interest, blossom, golden autumn colour and those weird fruits.

I’m not a natural baker.  In fact I would go as far to say that if I were the lastDSC_0236 person on this earth alongside Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood I still wouldn’t make it onto the Bake Off.  But my rescue medlar tree has come up trumps with a reasonable crop and I’m determined to do it justice.  I found a recipe from James Martin – ‘Walnut Bakewell tart with roasted medlars’; it sounds seriously autumnal.   Plus it has a layer damson jam.  Serendipity.

We have grown good crops of all 3 this year on the smallholding. So – damson jam – tick.  Walnuts – after an abortive start to the harvesting – tick.  Just the medlars – now gathered in.  The RHS site recommends picking in late October or early November but also say that the fruit can be left on the tree to ‘develop flavour’ as long as there is no sign of frost.  Though potentially you risk fungal rot if you leave the fruit on the tree to blet.  (Great word – ‘blet’). The bletted fruit taste of cinnamon spiced apple and the flesh has a lovely custardy texture. So I have picked them now and will leave them somewhere cool to rot.  Medlars are probably another Roman introduction along with the Walnut.  Damsons have been around for ever.  So having shamelessly abandoned my Dig for Victory tendencies I am leaning towards – well late Medieval or Tudor Renaissance.

Reading this week:  A Green and Pleasant Land by Ursula Buchan (okay…. so I haven’t quite abandoned my Dig for Victory habit!)