Nope, can’t deny it any longer… autumn is here. The sun is lower in the sky, days are getting shorter, and most evenings have a distinct chill to them.
With the arrival of October, there’s been a seasonal shift in our conversations at the table each evening when we sit down to eat. Whereas before the kids would look suspiciously at the food on their plates, poke it cautiously with a fork and ask “is there any courgette in this?”, now they are asking “is there any apple in this?” The rate of courgette production has dropped dramatically, and along with it the possibility that the vegetable may be ‘hidden’ in a pasta sauce, soup or (and this is the worst possible scenario) inside a cake. Instead, apples have become the mystery ingredient of the season, not quite as bad as courgette – everyone likes apple, but there really are times when you can have too much of a good thing.
And there are so many apples this year. No doubt about it, there are more on the trees than I’ve ever seen before. The freezer has filled up with bags of cooked apples, we’re eating as much apple crumble and pie as I can find excuses to make, and I’m working on getting the kids to eat apples fresh from the tree instead of insisting on having those sugary sweet varieties from the supermarket. And that’s just the apples, there are pears too – a whole treeful to use. The greengages are less of a concern at the moment. All the ripe fruit are way up high on the trees, too high for even the new long-handled apple picker to reach. It’ll be a few more days before the lower fruit ripen and I can pick enough to make jam and wonder what to do with the rest.
The season of full-on garden growth is coming to an end, and it won’t be too long before most of the plants begin their cold weather shut down. Right now though, it’s like a botany lesson out there in the garden, with almost all stages of the plant life cycle on display. There’s a tray of hardy annuals I sowed a couple of weeks back, that’s now full of seedlings almost ready to be pricked out. The young cornflowers, salvias and cerinthe can be potted on and kept in the greenhouse for planting out early next year. I was sent some Egyptian walking onions last month by my seedy penpal, Carl (as well as organising the seedy penpal scheme, Carl writes a brilliantly practical blog that you can find here). I’ve planted the onions in pots and there are already fresh green shoots appearing – I’ve never grown these onions before, so I hope I’ve done the right thing in planting them now.
The flowers keep on coming too – beautiful rudbeckias are still unfurling day by day, and the July sowing of borage, cosmos and scabious have buds on and may just get to produce some flowers before the days become too short to bother.
Not such a welcome site are the aphids that are thick on the last of the sweet peas. I need to introduce them to the ladybirds currently hanging out on the borage…
Seed collecting is in full swing on days that are dry enough. There are lots of nasturtium seeds this year. These seeds are edible and supposed to make a good alternative to capers. I’ve wondered for some time if they really are worth eating, but the only way to find out will be to try them… this year I planned to investigate recipes for pickled nasturtium seeds. With perfect timing Urvashi at The Botanical Baker wrote a post in praise of nasturtiums, including a link to just such a recipe – which has saved me a search. There’s a glut of ripening calendula seeds to deal with too. I don’t know if they’re edible, but eating them would be a good way to control the numbers that sprout up next spring.
While we’re still picking apples, the leaves on some of the trees are starting to turn autumnal. The grass is dotted with yellow leaves as well as windfalls… not long now and it will be time to haul the rake out from the back of the shed and start clearing them up. Meantime, there are squash to harvest, coriander and fennel seeds to collect for the kitchen, and yet more apples to pick.
So there we have it, autumn has arrived, but summer hasn’t completely given up – seedlings, buds, flowers, seeds and fruit are all there in the garden. This post is my contribution to October’s Garden Share Collective run by Lizzie at Strayed from the Table and linking gardens from all over the world.