It's a rule of fruit picking that the best fruit is either too high or protected by nettles and brambles. Still, it's that time of year when the blackberries are ripening and high on my list for this morning was to go a-gathering in Reach.
I've written about Reach before. It's a village near das Boot with a perfect pub and a perfect organic farm. Most of my blackberry gathering over the last four summers has taken place there. Not all the berries were ripe. Some were still at the flowering stage, so should I get back within the next month or so there's a good chance I shall get a second crop.
Most of the summer my night and early morning routine has included filling watering cans and soliticiously making sure the tomato plants had enough to drink. That reminds me we have had warm, even hot, days this year, hard to remember now when it feels more like late October than early September. Last night I went to bed in my winter pyjamas. I am back in socks, long trousers, jumpers and even a coat.
But each day, despite the gloom, we harvest. That watering has paid dividends. The basil has been bushy for weeks; the lemon balm is suddenly looking promising after months of being undersized and weak; the thyme, planted last summer, is absolutely settled and expanding; and the parsley, recovered from its infestion of white fly, is green and plentiful. The green beans are nearly over – though I ate one last night – the peppers are ripe and hot.
But its the tomatoes who are the stars. We have about eight plants; different varieties; some small, some large; some yellow, some red. And all delicious.
Big Red and Beautiful
I love this one so much I can hardly bear to eat it. Maybe I’ll photograph it being cut in half and incorporated into salad when I do. It is becoming redder and redder sitting in the kitchen.
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The one compensation for the gradually shortening days is the ripening of the garden fruits.
I went to buy tomatoes and onions today.
My eyes grew larger than my stomach, and I came home with gorgeous English damsons, cucumbers, small and so so sweet, raspberries from Kent that are a taste of heaven, Kentish cobs (most already eaten and the shells in the compost) with their green, singular tang, corns on the cob, ready to boil or roast, beetroots with slender pink stems and crimson veined leaves. From further afield, I bought pomegranates, oranges, figs. I’d already got grapes from the garden.
I am dizzy with the prospect of eating all this bounty. My head spins with recipes, planned meals and gastronomic pleasure.
In a similar situation, Keats wrote a poem.
We can’t all be highminded.
So while I chomp, I’ll recite this in my head.
It seems no time at all since i noticed the days were get longer, but each day it is clearer and clearer that summer is giving way to autumn. There’s a nip in the early morning air, before the sun has got into its stride. Night descends with a thump when I’m still expecting it to be light. I know a lot of people love autumn, and I agree the colours are wonderful, but for me, spring is the best season. Continue reading