well it isn’t a flame, it’s the orchard. I did notice a while back but it was only when I wandered out to pick the cobs and filberts that I got a good look. These are the caterpillars of the buff tip moth, (Phalera bucephala), and they are making quite an inroad into the leaves of the nut cultivars – the little blighters. The caterpillars seem to prefer hanging about in groups. Their food preferences include many of the common deciduous trees – oak, birch, willow and – oh yes – hazel. And in our case, not any old hazel. According to my google source the caterpillars ‘sometimes defoliate whole branches, but rarely caus[e] serious damage’.
Could have fooled me – the cobs are taking quite a battering. Once the caterpillars have finished gorging themselves on our prized shrubs they’ll drop off and pupate underground and spend the winter tucked up in their chrysalis. I did look up to see if the caterpillars had any predators in the hope of attracting said predators to a feast but no, not really. The combination of caterpillar warning colours, bristles and unpleasant taste seems to do the trick when it comes to defence. If they come back next year I’ll grab the secateurs and prune them out. At least I managed to harvest a tidy bounty of cobs and filberts from the nuttery
unlike the walnut trees.
Apparently you can make popcorn from corn on the cob in the microwave – which I would try if I had a microwave. However, we haven’t owned one for nearly 15 years. Fifteen years ago we were renovating a house; the kitchen wasn’t installed for nearly 3 months and so the microwave was used a lot during those 3 months and we tried a lot of microwave meals. They were universally disgusting. The microwave became redundant and was recycled.
This year I grew some multi-coloured corn from James Wong’s range of exotics. The seeds were in a sale and I was tempted. I sowed the seeds and planted out and, amazingly, the raider rabbits left them alone. They grew. The colour of the ears was amazing a purple-red, like Burgundy. I went out and harvested some ears and plopped them straight into a pan of boiling water. Lunch would be ready in a matter of minutes. Yum.
I pulled back the green casings and removed the tassels. How pretty were those cobs. They consisted of a myriad of coloured kernels – not quite glass gem corn standard perhaps, (see http://shop.nativeseeds.org/products/ts363), but not bad. Not bad at all. Of course I should have read a little bit more about said corn. I served up lunch. The OH and I pitched in. ‘A bit like chewing gum’ said the OH. Yes it was. Not totally inedible but nothing at all like the super sweet, yellow corn on the cob. These multi-coloured cobs are best for popping or for flour.
I did look up to see if corn formed a base for chewing gum – it doesn’t.
Synthetic rubber does however – another thing I won’t be chewing in the near future.
We have done very well on fruit this year; soft fruit particularly as we still strip most of the top fruit from the orchard. Except for the summer raspberries. The first planting of bare root didn’t come to much and neither has the second. A high proportion of the canes didn’t take and those that did just haven’t produced fruit and I would say they are planted in a better position than the autumn varieties – more sun. So I’m giving up on them. The autumn raspberries have done brilliantly. I used to be a dyed in the wool ‘Autumn Bliss’ fan until I tried ‘Polka’. No contest – strong canes, big, big berries, great yield and a good raspberry flavour. We also grow a few Autumn Bliss and some All Gold, a yellow berry variety.
To get an earlier crop from the autumn fruiters I’m going to have a go at ‘double cropping’. Instead of cutting all the canes to the ground around end February I will leave them. They are then meant to crop earlier. The fruiting canes are then cut back, any new canes will fruit in the autumn. The summer varieties I shall dig out this autumn and replace with another autumn fruiting cultivar – I have heard good things about ‘Joan J’. Raspberries are such an easy fruit to grow and they cost so much to buy – a no brainer on the home grown front.
We picked some blackberries yesterday on a walk – summer pudding for tea!
The OH and I had a DAY OUT last weekend whereupon I dragged him off to visit a lovely walled kitchen garden in Sugnall, (http://sugnall.co.uk/walled-garden/), followed by the gorgeous gardens at Wollerton Old Hall (http://wollertonoldhallgarden.com/). Both are well worth a visit but I reserve a soft spot for Sugnall. Privately owned, bravely restored – it costs just £2.00 to visit, (August 2014). The 2 acre walled kitchen garden contains an interesting mix of pyramid trained apple and pear trees lining the quadrants; (the owner was assisted in the selection by Nick Dunn of Frank P. Matthews – a complete guru in matters of top fruit and ornamental trees. I have seen him pruning orchards – amazing doesn’t come close). Some modern varieties plus many old including the Black Worcester pear, an old English cooker which probably pre-dates Tudor.
The Walled Kitchen Gardens network (http://www.walledgardens.net/) has a handy pdf listing restored and partially restored walled kitchen gardens which one can visit. I’m determined to go and see more, because they might not be there forever. It takes a lot of manpower to maintain a working kitchen garden and let’s face it, the produce grown within them won’t cover the wages of the gardeners. So if a few quid from me in entrance money and a cream tea helps then that’s money well spent.
Black Worcester Pear
Reading this week: Cottesbrooke by Susan Campbell