Making the most of autumn’s bounty in the garden
The main weather event down my way last month was Cyclone Debbie, bringing lashing rain and battering wind.
The wind blew my peach tree over– luckily it’s only a seedling which I’m growing to see if it has worthwhile fruit. I’ve hauled it upright and staked it, but now the stake needs a stake. Oh well, at least half of the roots are still in the ground.
The wind shredded frilly lettuces, tore branches off the raspberries, and covered the lawn with leaves and bits of branches from neighbours’ gardens. It also brought the walnuts rattling down on the garage roof. The walnut trees are on my neighbours’ side of the fence but they shed nuts all over my driveway and they are a worthwhile crop, sweet and completely unlike the rancid walnuts you often buy. They make good pasta sauces, or additions to salads, but they really excel in this recipe for honey walnut cake. It substitutes ground walnuts for some of the flour, and has a delicious flavour and a moist, smooth texture.
Walnuts should be gathered preferably when the ground is dry. That hasn’t been possible this year, but as long as they don’t lie on the ground for more than a day or two they will dry if you spread them out in a single layer in the sun or in a warm spot.
It’s a good time of year for eating seasonally. The rain brought enough mushrooms for me to make soup. Mushrooms aren’t my favourite food but I do like the soup, and field mushrooms have much more flavour than bought ones. If you decide to collect them, be absolutely sure you know how to identify the edible ones. My mother used to take us mushrooming when I was a small child, and it seems that I’ve always known not to pick any but the ones with pink or brown gills. But don’t take any chances if you aren’t certain.
My neighbour gave me quinces, from which I’ve made quince paste to eat with cheese, and she also gave me tender tasty sweet corn, once again so much more delicious than the bought kind. There are self seeded Cape gooseberries in various spots about the garden, ripening to luscious little mouthfuls, and a good crop of cooking apples although the Cox’s Orange eating apples haven’t done much this year.
The grapes are finally starting to ripen, although I’ve had to net them against birds. If it doesn’t stop raining they may turn spontaneously to wine on the vine.
This is the time of the year to plant broad beans for winter, but I decided that I prefer peas, so I’ve planted an extra row. I read that pea tendrils don’t cling, so they need to be tied to supports, which makes you wonder why they’re supplied with tendrils in the first place. I’ve observed my peas and the tendrils certainly cling to each other!!
If you have a bare piece of ground, try sowing a cover crop like mustard-and-cress or blue lupins. Legumes like lupins cover earth and fix nitrogen in the soil, and should be dug in before they get too tall and woody.