Saturday, 10 September 2011

September Harvest

Finally there's lots of produce in the garden - the last of the plums and berries (brambles and mulberries), apples, pears, beans, courgettes, chard, edible leaves and flowers - mainly nasturtiums, cucumbers and very few tomatoes

Pears, mulberries and mirabelle plums in the basket. Mulberries ripen gradually so they have a fairly long picking season which is handy. They also have a great flavour. Only drawback is they are spectacularly messy to pick - some of the berries unpredictably squirt juice when you touch them, just the colour of blood, which makes for a gory looking harvest. Essential to wear purple or black clothing (or to pick them on National Naked Gardening Day)

A great crop of chard thanks to all the rain. The ruby chard looks great but its stalks aren't as good to eat as the white chard. They're more like spinach stalks, whereas the white chard stalks (ribs, I think they're called) are a vegetable in their own right (particularly using Anna Thomas' recipe for cooking white beans with chard, sage, garlic and olive oil). The purple flower is a morning glory self seeded among the chard.

Ordinary runner beans and purple climbing beans. The purple beans also have the lovely purple flowers and less foliage than runner beans. The only disappointing thing is that when you cook them they go green and the cooking water goes an amazing colour instead. I think they're a type of climbing French bean - known in my family as Uncle Ernest's beans- they live on after him grown by me and several cousins in Yorkshire and Sussex.

The small yellow plums are mirabelles. Last year the total crop was about 20 fruit because of a frost at just the wrong time when the blossom was setting into fruit (altho Orlin at the Farmers' Market told me that just lighting a few nightlights under the tree can raise the temperature enough to prevent frost damage! Proper fruit farmers like Orlin are roused from their beds by an alarm if the temperature drops dangerously low and they have to rush out and warm up the air around their trees).

Lots of people have also found them growing wild (they come in red and yellow). Michael Stuart and the Local Fruit Harvesters picked a massive amount from a tree in Streatley Gardens in late July. They're very good raw and also make a delicious jam but it's a bit of a bore de-stoning them - either at the start by cutting them in half and taking the stone out, or by cooking them to loosen the stones then plunging your hands in and hunting around for the stones, then adding sugar and finishing off the jam.

The other great thing about them was that they were entirely free of the unwelcome plum maggot which was in nearly all my Victoria plums this year. I used grease bands over the winter (to stop the flightless moths crawling up the trees in the first place) and pheremone traps in the summer to catch moths on the wing, but neither of these organic methods helped at all this year. I've tried to be more thorough about collecting up fallen fruit after realising (after all these years!) that leaving the maggot to exit the plum, pupate and hatch as yet another moth was not helping the situation. A friend in Majorca claims that there is a local bird especially adapted to removing these maggots from plums with a perfectly shaped beak, but I don't think we have that useful feathered friend here.

Beautiful peacock butterfly on the brambles (in open and shut positions).

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos and useful info. as always...


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