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Harvest time is here again.


The farmer at the back of the house has just combined the field of corn he planted there, so there is lots of straw lying around. I think I’ll get a hessian sack and collect me some free straw for the allotment sometime. I’ll wait till he’s baled it and pick up the leftovers.

The apple trees are cropping so heavily it’s amazing. The apples aren’t huge but I think that having seen the weather forecast for this week, and with the strong winds predicted I am going to pick some of them and store them for the winter. I’ve had a few off the tree and they are really nice. I just don’t want to lose them to the perils of wind. All I need is a decent box and some newspaper. It does seem odd to think about wind and heavy rain when looking out the window the sun is shining and the weather is warm.

I managed to take 4 kilo of apples from one tree and there are a lot more on there, so these are going to work with me (slowly).

The weather may not have been the heat wave we were promised but I have to face it, it’s been a lot better in Yorkshire this year than for the last 2 years. I definitely won’t complain about the weather (mainly because there’s nothing I can do about it). It hasn’t been constant rain, we have had a lot of dry spells, some nice warm days and lots of water, really it’s been ideal growing weather. It’s even been decent at weekends to allow for eating in the garden and sitting in the sun. Compared to the torrential Junes of the last two years and this is a great improvement.

Autumn is the season of ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’, and as I mentioned before I tend to take my cue for Autumn from the brambles and blackberries. Luckily, where I park my car in the morning has a lot of them growing near so I get to see what they are like, and walking to the allotment takes me past a lot too. That is probably the one reason why I never, ever bother growing blackberries, I can’t see the point when there are free brambles growing all around us! The council is very nice and even cuts the grass back so you can get to the brambles to pick them! In the hedgerow at the bottom of the road are brambles, wild roses (so rose petals and rosehips), hawthorns and elder trees (elderflowers and elderberries), so it does make the scrumping very good. We make apple, elderberry and blackberry jam (it does need the elderberries sieving as they have big seeds, but it does taste nice).

Back in June I gave out a recipe for elderflower syrup/cordial, and now I have an even better one for elderberry cordial. Elderberries are very rich in vitamin c and incredibly good for you. The cordial keeps extremely well. I have some at home that is 2 years old, and I always have a bottle of it in my drawer at work to stave away colds, and it generally helps..

Anyway, the recipe isn’t particularly messy or taxing and it goes like this…


Strip as much of the green from the stalks of the elderberries as you can, they don’t add anything to the flavour of the cordial and can be a bit bitter.
Place the elderberries in a pan and add water so that they are just covered.
Stew the fruit until soft and all the berries burst. I often use a potato masher here to get all the juice out.
Strain through a muslin cloth or jelly bag if you have one (or a very fine sieve)
For every pint of liquid you have add 1lb of white sugar and 10 cloves.
Boil for 10 minutes and let it cool a little.
Bottle into warmed, sterilised bottles and try to get some cloves in each bottle.
Dilute to taste.

Speaking of elderberries reminds me of a holiday to Ecuador. I can see you’re all puzzled. We’d gone for a holiday in February to the Galapagos (that we’d scrimped and saved for, and was probably the best holiday we have ever been on), and between a week on a small boat and a week in the highlands of the Andes we had some time in Quito. And it was there that I saw for the first time an elder tree with both flowers and berries on at the same time. It was really odd to see and just looked wrong to my UK eyes. We’d hired a guide to show us the local area and I mentioned it to him. He said it was a very useful and medicinal tree, and the wise, old Ecuadorians used to boil up the flowers with milk and garlic to make a remedy for ‘flu. It was a use I had never heard about or even considered, maybe we should tell the NHS? They looked like this …

When we went to the Andes virtually every house you saw had an elder tree growing by it…

At the moment I am writing this in the office in Leeds, and have suddenly come over all nostalgic, so excuse me while I look at the loads of photos we took and sigh a lot.

It’s definitely nicer than my next task. Getting some manure for the allotment. Luckily I live close to Ripon Racecourse and the stables around there, and also there a few dairy farms around us, so we are spoilt for choice. It’s not a glamourous job but an important one, and when the plot is finally empty (or as empty as it’ll get later in the year I’ll do some spreading. Hopefully then all the goodness will go into the ground for next year.

Here’s to the end of the Summer and the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Happy scrumping all…

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It sounds as if you've had a similar summer to us here on the coast in Northumberland. I've certainly enjoyed my summer.....One of the things I miss from our days in Harrogate are the nice warm evenings when we used to sit out until it was dark..

3 Sep, 2009


Lovely blog knees. Thanks

3 Sep, 2009

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