Autumn, it seems to have arrived so suddenly. I had high hopes for a long, lingering, Indian Summer, but there’s no sign of one yet. We seemed to have jumped head first into the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness, wet leaves on the pavements and woolly jumpers.
The allotment is winding down, and my gardening spirit is right there with it. I’m really just keeping the weeds at bay when I can, and harvesting, lots of harvesting, and then wondering what to do with all these harvests. I’m squirrelling food away for the winter and attempting to bottle the taste of the summer sun.
There’s still lots to harvest and store. I have one last row of potatoes to dig up, but most of those harvested from the last row were riddled with slug or eelworm damage, so my enthusiasm for harvesting the last row has dwindled. On the upside though, there are colourful borlotti beans, the leaves of which are turning a golden hue and falling to reveal their beautiful pink and purple mottled pods. There are also carrots and parsnips yet to be harvested, there’s still lots of ruby red beetroot and some fine looking cabbages. Fat squashes are hiding under the now mildewed leaves, and a glut of chillies are ripening en masse to a bright postbox red. There are rows of leeks standing tall, and a row of endives and chicory leaves for salads and sandwiches. I might even find a sweetcorn or two that haven’t yet been harvested.
Then there are the last of the tomatoes. It’s been a fabulous year for tomatoes, and about time too. I think it was about 4 years ago the last time I had a tomato glut. Blight had previously wiped out my plants before they’d had chance to ripen, resulting in more green tomato chutney than I could give away. The difference this year could be down to several factors. The variety (a blight resistant variety called ‘Defiant’), the fact that I shielded them on 3 sides from blight potentially blowing across on the wind (I’m not even sure if that actually happens), or a spraying of a concoction recommended on Instagram, which basically consists of a half litre of water with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, a drop of vegetable oil and a drop of liquid tea-tree soap. The person who recommended it, swore by it fending off blight and mildew (must spray my squashes with some) and it does seem to have helped.
So, my freezer is already stocked with tomato pasta sauces, I’ve been using masses of tomatoes in dishes in the kitchen (either raw in salads or cooked in sauces). My little yellow cherry tomatoes that I’ve been growing at home have been dehydrated in the oven, some of which are stored in olive oil, and some accidentally over dried into delicious crisps. I think a ketchup or thicker relish will be next on the list for whatever’s left.
My plums were also a great success this year, they have either gone into the freezer, into jam, or into my belly under a blanket of crumble. The sweetcorn has mostly been frozen, a few whole, but most were stripped of their kernels which were then bagged up ready to throw straight into dishes. The same goes for bags of frozen chopped green beans.
I’m not sure yet how I’ll preserve the chillis. The freezer is fully occupied, though I know you can freeze them fresh. I made a chilli sauce last year which we didn’t really use, so we’re thinking about drying them and crushing or pounding them into a paprika style powder. I just need to research the best method for doing that.
Lastly, I also have apples and blackberries that are ripe for harvesting, which I think I’ll turn into cordial. I’m kind of good for jam, for a while. Although most of the apples will be wrapped in newspaper or tissue and stored somewhere cool.
Phew. I’ll be looking forward to a rest (and a gorge) over winter.
I’m a bit late in updating you on my journal, but here are my August pages, and there’s a few new items recently added to my Etsy shop, including the prints, cards and jam labels below. I’ve just finished working on ‘a growers guide to tomatoes’ which will be listed within the week, and I have some new tote bags currently being printed.
As soon as this rain stops, I’ll be putting down my pens and getting back to those harvests.