This morning I was admiring the amber-gold foliage of the oak trees in and around our holding.
Then the winds hit and the leaves streamed horizontally into the adjacent fields. The autumn colour won’t be around for long. Today it’s a prevailing south westerly; strong, around 24mph at times. As it has brought the rain I have retreated inside to continue with preserving.
Luckily we had picked all the medlars yesterday, otherwise the fruit would have been scattered to the ground. Our picking was quite late, many had already bletted whilst still on the tree. Even so, I should have enough hard fruits.
An 80:20 ratio of bletted to hard fruit should help set the jelly, (the unripe fruit contain more pectin).
We have started planting for next year. The garlic went in yesterday; Arno; Provence Wight; Germidour and Carcassone as well as Elephant. We had ordered Garcua and Garpek, which produced fabulous heads for us but the quality wasn’t sufficiently good, so the supplier withdrew these varieties. I may break a rule and plant some cloves from our own heads. I’m also experimenting with starting the autumn onion and shallot sets in modules as the spring planting did so well when started off inside.
We have made excellent inroads into preserving the gluts of late summer and we’re finding new recipes for our produce. Squash risotto is an excellent choice for a cold day!
Reading this week: An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade
We have started to remove the heat-loving fruit and vegetables from the polytunnel. All the ripe chillies have been picked along with the tomatoes, (green and red), melons, aubergines, sweet peppers and cucumbers.
So we have quite a lot of preserving activity ahead of us. The lovely OH has made a start on the chillies.
He has found that putting a slit into the chilli before drying in the dehydrator helps to dry the chillies faster. Once dried we can use the chillies through next year.
Of course, we are eating as much fresh produce as possible, so our weekly supper menu has a definite lean towards vegetarian recipes. Gathered together here…the vegetable ingredients for a sambhar, recipe courtesy of Meera Sodha’s ‘Fresh India‘.
I popped into our village library the other day to pick up some ordered books and to catch up with the news on the recent, fund raising Harvest Festival/Apple Pressing day. I couldn’t make the event, but we had donated produce to help make money to keep our library open. Over £750 was raised at this event – onwards and upwards.
My librarian mentioned that not many borrowers took books from her curated display so I volunteered and was very pleased to pick up ‘The Modern Preserver’. I was immediately smitten by the spiced plum sauce recipe.
Unfortunately, whilst I had plums and damsons a week ago; when I checked the orchard, all had gone!
Time to get our skates on with gathering in the harvest.
The squashes have done us proud once again and yes, mid brother, some of those spaghetti squashes have your name on them. The walnuts, once again, have been raided by the grey squirrels…..
….we might manage a few for Christmas
but no matter, we have plenty of other ingredients to keep us happy – here the ingredients to accompany pheasant poached in cider…
Reading this week: Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation by Richard Mabey
The wonderful thing about living in a temperate zone is that you experience the transitions between seasons. The truly hot summer weeks have been few this year – a fleeting 10 days in June, possibly a number of weeks in August, fingers crossed. In the growing patch some of my favourite vegetables have been harvested for storing or are bulking up, ready to be lifted for glorious feasts later this year…..
The lovely OH did a roaring trade selling our excess garlic at a local agricultural show whilst supporting our smallholder association. The onions have been lifted and are drying before stringing….
Cabbages and kales are often underrated, but I love red cabbage with bacon served alongside loin of venison with a red wine sauce , (Rosemary Shrager does a cracking recipe).
This year I have sown, for the first time, celeriac, (makes a delicious soup), and quinoa…
and of course, the pumpkins and squashes are starting to swell…
so much good food to look forward to!
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.
Roast the squash. Find a recipe you like, amend to your taste. Assemble the rest of the soup ingredients, home grown if possible…
Make soup and serve…
Light the lantern…
Look 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.
Sometime ago I attended a talk where a hardened veg grower expounded the thought that any idiot could grow enough to feed a family during the summer/autumn seasons but the real test was whether said idiot could do the same during the hungry months – January to May. Not only is it too cold for most crops to actually grow outside then, but also harvested supplies of the staples, which if you are organised and have planted the previous summer, are starting to dwindle having reached the end of their shelf lives; (rubbery potatoes? I’ve eaten a few of those in my time).
We have had some good success with clamps – the beetroot stored really well and we finished them off some 18 months later. The polytunnel will help extend the growing season. Planning, (my downfall), aka actually planting winter crops, would also help – enormously. Plenty of scope for improvement.
So whilst I ponder on the fast approaching dearth of produce, I will gather some autumn veg. and rustle up this feast. The recipe is by Niamh Shields.