a plum deal

still life plums and roses

As we slip into late summer, the light in the evenings fades a little earlier each day and hot sunny days alternate with grey rainy days. On the farm, harvest has finished and the oilseed rape for next year’s harvest has been sown, while in the garden the plums are ripening fast.

Plums seem to straddle summer and early autumn as each variety ripens in succession. In our garden, the deep purple Czar plums are coming to the end as the greengages reach their peak. Anyone walking past the greengage tree seems unable to resist reaching out to pick one of the gloriously honeyed globes although this year we pick with care as we have wasps. Last year we had so many greengages that I made jam but this year the trees have been less fruitful and the wasps have eaten as many as we have. Luckily my mother’s tree was laden with fruit that we’ve been able to share; fresh greengages eaten by the handful on a warm summer’s day are one of life’s delights.

plums

But now, as the weather becomes more changeable and a warm pudding is sometimes more welcome, the earliest damsons are starting to ripen. Although the damsons on our Merryweather tree are sweet and juicy, I prefer to eat them cooked, though that may be because they don’t compare with the greengages. On cooler days, I shake the branches, catching the falling damsons that I know will be ripe and cook them in a crumble where the deep purple syrupy juice bubbles up through the crust. Plum Flapjacks make a treat to hide in the cake tin and jars of Spiced Damsons are lined up on the pantry shelf ready to add to eat with cold meat in a few months’ time.

At the far end of the garden, the fruit on the gnarled old damson tree will be the last to ripen. These damsons are too sour to eat but they make a very good jam and a particularly fine damson gin. Perfect for the cooler autumn days that lie ahead.


the garden in August

plums

This is the time of year when the garden is at its most productive. There’s plenty to harvest, successional sowing means the next flush is coming up behind and plants for winter are established and full of promise.

ladder in orchard

The cherry plums have been eaten, the Czar plums are just starting to ripen and every day I squeeze the greengages to see if they’re ready. The autumn fruiting raspberries are so prolific at the moment that Beth is picking them for her Raspberry Gin and we still have enough to eat at breakfast layered with oats and yoghurt and to make a fresh batch of raspberry vinegar.

There’s a ready supply of peas, beans, carrots, salad leaves and beetroot, though the carrot germination wasn’t good this year.  We have a steady trickle of tomatoes, though I suspect that we will reach glut proportions in a week or two.

leeks in garden August

Looking ahead, the leeks have been transplanted into their winter beds and are growing well.

leek dibber with spade and fork

On the left of the photo is the dibber to make the holes for the leeks. Constructed from scaffold pipe, it makes a monotonous job easier and saves a good deal of bending over.

guinea fowl in the garden

I’d hoped to have Brussels Sprouts again this winter. There’s always a dispute about whether to plant them or not; I like them because it’s handy to have a vegetable that’s easy to pick in the middle of winter but Bill thinks they take up too much room and look a mess. I got my way this year and the plants were growing well until the guinea fowl decided that the sprout bed was the best place on the entire farm to take a dust bath. They uprooted some of the plants and the remaining ones look pretty sickly. I noticed that Bill shouted at the guineas when they were eyeing up the carrot bed for their dust bath but has remained very quiet since they discovered the sprouts.

yellow courgettes

The courgettes are running amok and I have no idea why we have grown five plants when two would have been more than enough. I suppose the answer is that last year only one seed germinated and this year all of them did. The yellow courgettes are producing like there’s no tomorrow and are pressed on anyone who happens to pass by, though the green ones have hardly started yet.

pickled spiced courgette

This week I made pickled courgette, which we will (possibly) eat with cold meats in the autumn. Of course, it may languish on the pantry shelf for months, gradually disappearing behind the more attractive Spiced Crab Apples or chutneys. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I have a batch of courgette cakes in the oven, which goes to show how desperate I am to use them up and am trying to convince Beth that Courgette Gin would be a winner.

 

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