Monthly Archives: October 2015

all hallows eve….

Must haves …. a bowl of delicious soup and a jack o’ lantern. Select a pumpkin; add the hollowed out flesh to some quarters of squash.

DSC_0410Roast the squash.  Find a recipe you like, amend to your taste.   Assemble the rest of the soup ingredients, home grown if possible…

DSC_0414Make soup and serve…

DSC_0419Light the lantern…

DSC_0412Happy Halloween!


pppp….pick up a pumpkin

DSC_0249Look at these stunners!   Not our haul though – too much even for a squash lover like myself.   This is part(!) of display at Tyntesfield which is been piled at the entrance to the frame yard.    Our harvest is more modest but no less delicious, the picture below is about 30% of the crop, excluding the pumpkins.  These I have left out in the field, on top of slates, to colour up on the vine for Halloween..


Where possible the squashes are harvested leaving a good section of stem to help avoid the stem rotting back and affecting the fruit.

Given the cool summer we have had, there have been some great performers and a few underachievers.  The biggest underachiever was the butternut squash – I planted the variety ‘Harrier’ which is meant to be an early ripening form.  The yield was very poor and the fruits tiddly. Nul point!

The best – without a doubt the Japanese pumpkin (or kabocha) variety Sunshine, and the Japanese Red Onion squash (variety ‘Uchiki Kuri’).  Good yields from both in spite of the weather.    So I’ll be planting these again just in case there is another cool, wet summer.

Happy harvesting.







dined on …. slices of quince

DSC_0320Well, the owl and the pussycat would have had slim pickings here – it’s not  a bumper quince harvest.    The fruit in the bowl is from the cultivar ‘Vranja’.  The tree is young even so it does need to be double staked this coming winter as it is top heavy and the leader snapped earlier this year.  Some TLC is in order.

DSC_0322However the ‘Vranja’ is doing much better than the adjacent unnamed quince bush.

DSC_0323It is a miserable specimen, badly affected by quince leaf blight.  I shall remove the bush, burn it, remove all fallen leaves and replace with a new specimen.  Though what cultivar?  I saw a pretty looking specimen of ‘Meeches Prolific’ at Wightwick Manor – lovely pear shaped fruit and no sign of blight on the leaves.

DSC_0037Though our harvest is small I shall make some quince cheese, dulce de membrillo, River Cottage has a simple recipe here;

quince cheeseI might even track down some intricate entree dishes to do justice to a small but delicious crop!

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Perfect for any visiting owls or pussycats…








wild thing, you make my heart sing…

I have a somewhat ambivalent relationship with foraging – which  wasn’t improved when a well known chain of pizzerias served me a salad containing groundsel.

Plus, the lovely OH had been pouncing with delight on the puff ball fungi that appeared some weeks back.  “Try it”, he said, “it’s delicious”.  Sadly it did nothing to mitigate my foraged fungaphobia.

puff ballSeveral more puff balls appeared, along with a few shaggy ink caps but the novelty wore off, even for the OH.

However at this time of year the hedgerow is bursting with potential and it is churlish to be too draconian with an antipathy for foraged ingredients.  So here are my top 3:

In joint top spot.


DSC_0186These are well worth picking.  On the holding, our cultivated forms still haven’t produced a decent crop and there is such an abundance to be found on an autumn walk.  Apple and blackberry pie or crumble, with custard of course, is an all time favourite pudding for me.


DSC_0181which make an excellent alternative to balsamic vinegar.

Fruit infused vinegars are wonderful – you can buy them – Womersley have a lovely, (but pricey), range with stunning combinations such as Orange and Mace; Golden Raspberry and Apache Chilli; Lime, Blackpepper & Lavender.  However, fruit vinegars are easy to make, far easier than jam, so worth putting aside the time to make a few bottles.

DSC_0179rowanIn second place, berries from the mountain ash, (Sorbus aucuparia), make a delicious jelly.  I shall try to get a few jars made for the Christmas roast bird.

The third spot goes to the crab apple, which also makes a great tasting jelly and is a good carrier for herbs such as mint and rosemary.

crab appleThere we have it.   Good hunting!

Post script.   A sunny autumn day and good foraging brings ingredients for some hedgerow jellies – 50:50 crab apple and Sorbus berries for the rowan jelly; plus enough crab apple left over to mix with with cloves and cinnamon for a spiced version.  Delicious!



in a nutshell….

…I’m in a bit of a quandary.  Do I keep the cobs and filberts as multi-stem stool (Suffolk style) or do I prune to a short leg tree (Kent style)?

Originally inspired by Sissinghurst’s nuttery we planted a double row of Corylus cultivars and left them as multi-stem.  DSC_0163On a recent visit I noticed the nut trees at Snowshill Manor:

DSC_0435 and I liked the structure of the shortleg form… but then I like the structure of the restored old cobnut stool as well….

Picture by Kentish Cobnut Association

Picture by Kentish Cobnut Association

On balance – I think I prefer the multi-stem.  Quandary over.

Today, I have been harvesting the cobnuts.

DSC_0169We started planting these as bare root 3 years ago.  So far we have:

Webb’s Prize Cob; Kentish Cob; Hall’s Giant and Ennis.  Cosford and Gunslebert were added 2 winters back.

Hall’s Giant produced the largest nuts but Ennis was by far the best cropper.

DSC_0173Given that this was only the second year of harvesting, I was very impressed with the haul:

DSC_0176On the advice of the RHS, I started to harvest once the husks turned from green to yellow though in some cases the casings had browned completely – the risk at this stage is that the nuts will drop and be lost in the grass.

DSC_0164Cobs are self sterile and so need pollinating partners to produce nuts.  One of the best pollinators is the common hazel so I may well extend our shelter belt Corylus avellana block.

Whilst I haven’t seen any evidence on the cobs, nut weevil can take hold and ruin the crop so come winter I will clear the ground around the trees and dig over so hopefully any grubs will be exposed.  Happily the rampant squirrel(s), which stripped the old walnut of all this year’s crop, haven’t yet discovered the nuttery and the leaf damage by caterpillars this year was confined to one specimen with minimal impact.

We have a little bit of space at the end of the row to pop in a few more. I’m thinking about getting a couple of specimens of the Red Filbert, a variety that has young red leaves turning green later,  and another US variety, Butler.

Better get searching the nurseries…