Autumn Musings

I have been working on finding ways to use all the fruit that grows in such abundance around me and over the past few months have made:

Apple, Pear and Rosehip Jam

Pineapple Marmalade

Rosehip Syrup

Elderberry Jam

Elderberry Tonic Wine

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

Hawthorn Heart Tonic Syrup

Crabapple and Blackberry Jam

I have also frozen bags of blackberries, haws, rosehips and elderberries, which I intend to make into tarts and pies and other dishes over the winter months. I love the idea of having all the goodness of summer harvested and stored until they are brought out to brighten up a dark winters night. There wasn’t many hazelnuts where I live this year but I’m going to keep a close eye out for them next year as they have such a multitude of uses. I plan to try making Rose petal Jelly and Lavender jelly at the weekend with the last of the summer flowers from our garden so will let you know how that turns out. If anyone wants recipes for the above jams and syrups that I haven’t already put up, let me know and I will include them in my next post.

The weather has been so wet and windy lately that I haven’t able to get much work done in the garden. I did plant a bed of onions Sencha variety[Japanese of course as they are the earliest sets you can buy] about a month ago and they are coming up nicely and will be ready for eating in spring. I also uprooted the last of my peas and mangetout as they had stopped producing and were naturally dying away and plan to plant two more beds of onions as onions are useful for so many dishes throughout the year. My broad beans to my surprise are still producing new pods and are as green as ever, so I will leave them for the time being. I have little florets coming out on my winter broccoli so going to wait until they are bigger before picking. I had an awful problem with green caterpillars on my broccoli about a month ago but thankfully the first frosts seemed to have killed them off before they did too much damage. My celery is doing lovely and I brought a big bunch down for dinner the other day. I recommend putting a elastic band around the plants as they are growing, as it forces them to grow upward and fatter rather then thin and outward if let loose. The radishes were a big disappointment as for some reason, they just don’t like my soil and go all leggy. It was my second time trying them and I’ve one pack of seeds left which I will try in spring but if something doesn’t take after three goes, I will just have to forget about radishes. I even did a soil Ph test and my soil was neutral with a hint of acid so most things should grow in it but never mind. My winter carrots, parsnip and beetroot are coming out so will look forward to trying those in a month or two. I plan on planting some more potatoes for the winter that I’ve had sprouting in a shed but apart from some weeding and clearing, I won’t be doing much more in the garden until February.

I recently found out that if you have quite heavy soil as I do, you can lighten it by adding layers of ash from your stove, so I’ve been lugging up buckets of ash the last week and building up my soil and come spring, it should be much easier for digging and the ash will add extra nutrients to the soil. We should be having the chimney cleaner coming soon and this year, I’m going to keep all the soot and put it around my fruit bushes as apparently soot is very rich in plant nutrients, which if you think about it makes sense.

Oh, I almost forgot, I’ve been buying lots of fruit bushes for putting down in spring and now have a dozen blackcurrant, some red currant and a few white currant bushes. I also bought six raspberry sticks in Lidal last week [very affordable at only 2.99 for 3] and a pear tree there for 5.99 which is fantastic value given its about a metre tall and that I paid 14.99 for a pear tree in a garden centre two months ago. I recommend that if you do buy fruit sticks, plant them in rich compost and pile it up high over the root bulbs and keep them close to the wall of your house or a shed, away from the wind and that will give them some shelter over the winter.

My greenhouse is quite empty at the moment, apart from two tomato plants, a pepper plants and some large pots of lollo rosso lettuce, I only have some trays of seedlings. We are trying to grow plum, pear, apple, orange, lemon and fig trees from the seeds from fruit, as apparently it is easier then one would think. Also have some trays in which I’ve planted all the seeds from the rosehips that I’ve gathered over the autumn as it would be lovely to grow our own roses. I’ve one small pot of strawberry seeds as a experiment. I don’t know how they were all turn out but its certainly worth a shot! My vine plant isn’t doing very well as it was attacked by slugs one night so I’ve cut it down to the old wood and am going to cover it with some cloth for the winter. I’m hoping it will be okay as you hear of vineyards being attacked by insects or fire and still surviving. My fig tree is doing fantastic and my orange tree is doing okay but again, I will have to protect them over the winter.

We are hoping to plant over a thousand bulbs this winter and have bought about 400 so far, now is the time to buy and plant them when most gardening centres and shops are selling them cheaply in bulk. They also make lovely gifts for Christmas and easter if you buy hyacinths, narcissus and Amaryllis. All you need is a old terracotta pot which you could paint with poster paint and tie an attractive ribbon around and a bit of compost and suddenly viola! You have a personal living gift that will mean a lot more to someone rather then giving yet another box of biscuits. There is something so nice about having a pot of beautiful bright blue hyacinths on your kitchen window in a deary wet winters day.

I made Pumpkin Soup today and for all of those of you who celebrated Halloween, there are many ways to use the leftover pumpkin into delicious meals as you can make pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins…Also don’t forget to keep the seeds and dry them out on a baking tray for next spring for growing your own crop of pumpkins for next autumn which is what I will be doing. Here is the recipe I made today for

Pumpkin Soup:

Ingredients:

1 pumpkin

2 tbs olive oil

2/3 onions

2 cloves of garlic

A little fresh ginger

1 tbs cinnamon

3 carrots

500ml vegetable stock

150ml milk [could use soya milk here]

To Make:

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, saute your onions next, then add the garlic and add the cinnamon. Remove from the heat and add the contents of your halloween pumpkin [minus the seeds], as well as the carrots, return to the heat and bring to the boil and then simmer for twenty minutes until soft. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly Puree the soup in a food processor, add the milk and heat gently. Serve with a swirl of fresh cream and slices of toast rubbed with olive oil and garlic for a tasty and nourishing meal.

We are so lucky in Ireland to still have so much unspoilt countryside. I have only started to get into making my own jams and perserves and syrups but I’m enjoying every minute of it and learning so much along the way. Its been such a rewarding experience from spending hours foraging in the lanes and meadows to sorting and preparing the fruit to actually turning them into delicious food for the winter ahead. I’ve rediscovered a new and deeper connection to the plants and animals around me and feel more in tune with the seasons. For me, it has been a healing process and I think if you try to spend even a few minutes outside everyday, you too will feel the wonder of the ever changing sky above you and the abundance of the dark fertile earth below your feet.

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One thought on “Autumn Musings

  1. I must say I had the pleasure of trying out most of these jams and tonics about two weeks ago and they were excellent. Good on you for using your initiative. They have the added benefit of being good for you and have no chemical in them

    Good luck with your Radishes in spring. Here hoping they work out the third time for you…

    Like

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