Harvest time is certainly upon us and this week’s ‘Six on Saturday’ highlights some of the autumn produce coming out of the garden. It has been a rather strange year with some plants and trees setting really well and other producing absolutely no fruit at all.
Last autumn we described the process of pruning the red and white outdoor grape vines ( Pruning time for the outdoor grape vines ). They have both really enjoyed the hot weather this year and produced (after thinning) large juicy bunches of sweet grapes. When we planted these a few years back I was rather sceptical as to whether we would get anything worth eating here in the UK Midlands but they have both exceeded all my expectations.
You can eat them fresh but they also make a lovely grape juice. This is simply done by putting them in the food processor for a very quick pulse to mash the fruits and then straining. Absolutely delicious.
It is not quite apple picking time but the Golden Noble, Bramley seedling, Lord Lambourne and Egremont Russet (pictured) have all done very well. The Tydemans Late Orange, however, has no fruit on it this year and we have no pears at all (see: The Orchard – beautiful in spring, productive in autumn for further details of the varieties we grow in the orchard).
Next month (October) will be peak harvest time for the apples and on a warmish, sunny day I will get out my cider making equipment for the annual cider making bonanza. ( see: How to make cider from all those spare apples ). With so little water this year it may well take some time to get a decent yield of juice out of the apples.
Three: Greenhouse and polytunnel fruits
At the peak of the heatwave the greenhouse fruits were certainly struggling a bit and we suffered a lot from bottom end rot on the early tomatoes. This is supposed to be caused by irregular watering but I seemed to be watering all the time. I think the plants were just unable to cope with the temperatures and were in a semi-wilted state for a number of weeks.
However, as the temperatures cooled the tomatoes have recovered and are now producing a regular crop of large red, tasty fruit. I have grown the variety ‘Shirley’ for the last few years and found it very reliable and full of flavour.
The cucumbers did not seem to mind the heat and produced a huge crop. The variety I have most success with is the variety ‘Euphya’ from Marshalls. You only get 5 seeds but your get five plants from them and they produce far more high quality cucumbers than we could ever eat. Most of the hamlet here receive free cucumbers at some point in the summer.
The final fruit crop in the polytunnels has been the Sweet Peppers. The variety I have most success with in both hot and cold summers is the ox-horn type pepper Diablo. They produce huge sweet peppers (pictured) and are currently ripening to red in the polytunnel.
Our plum tree is now over 25 years old and beginning to show its age. When we saw this variety (Warwickshire Drooper) in the catalogue when we were first planting the orchard we just had to include it. We live in Warwickshire after all.
This year it has had a huge crop despite an increasing number of dead looking branches. It is a lovely plum to just eat fresh off the tree with a slightly plum wine flavour. Yum!
Another tree that has had a bumper crop this year has been the Quince. You could grow it purely as an ornamental tree as it has a mass of large pink flowers in the spring. When ripe, the fruit has a delicate and beautiful fragrance.
They are a lovely fruit to eat if prepared well (see: Quinces ).
Six: Enjoying the harvest throughout the winter
Although it is lovely to eat all this seasonal produce at this time of year now is the time to preserve the harvest for those long cold winter months. This is probably the topic of a separate blog still to be written but we do make a lot of use of a wonderful little kitchen gadget – our Tefal jam maker.
Home grown fruit jam on hot buttered toast on a cold winter morning. I will leave you with that thought!