We hope to acquire tomatoes at some point over the Summer. My father-in-law visited us recently with a plant for each of the three children. He instructed them to water their plant daily (hasn’t quite happened) and see whose produces the most fruit. We wait in great anticipation…
We have two quince (Cydonia oblonga) trees, one in the front garden, one in the back. I did not know much about them before we moved here. Last year I didn’t even pick the fruit, unsure what to do with them.
The quince has been around for an incredible 3,000 years. They arrived in England during the 13th century but quickly lost out in popularity to apples and pears. The reason for their decline is probably because they take so long to ripen. However, in Britain, quince marmalade was being made up until 1790, when orange marmalade replaced it.
This autumn, I was a little more organised and picked the fruit from both trees. I stored the fruit in boxes; they need to be kept for about six weeks before they can be used and the fruit shouldn’t touch. The distinctive aroma from the quinces promised the taste would be worth waiting for. But, within a couple of weeks it was clear that the fruit was decaying; I guess I must have placed them too near each other. So much for turning the quince into something delectable. I guess the taste of this forgotten fruit will have to wait until next year.
Dan decided to use some of our apples to make an apple pie with cheese crust. It’s a Nigel Slater recipe and one we haven’t tried before. We weren’t too sure about the idea of a cheese crust with what is, essentially, a dessert. But an apple from the fridge with a piece of Cheddar cheese is a perfect combination. And all the family loves cheesecake. So why not a cheese pastry with apple at its centre? The recipe itself was straightforward and smelt lovely whilst in the oven.
So, the verdict once the pie was cooked? Dan and I enjoyed it with vanilla yoghurt, feeling that it would be too weird with our usual custard. But the children were not so keen. I preferred the pie once we had left it in the fridge for a day; for some reason it was definitely tastier cold. Although Nigel’s recipe was certainly interesting, nothing beats traditional apple pie with custard in my opinion!
We have an apple tree just outside the back door, at the top of the Kitchen Garden. It is not a huge specimen but produces a reasonable number in relation to size. Dan will, no doubt, turn this crop into something tasty: a sweet pie or sauce to be served with pork. Hmmm, I can’t wait…
‘Apple pie, sweet taste of Autumn, All the dreams that I once had, Now they are almost forgotten, Sun fades, nothing can last.’
Lyric for Apple Pie, by The Gingerbread Tree.
The apples below usually sit prettily on a windowsill in my living room. They were created by my poet brother, Philip Davenport and I’ve photographed them on the steps that are beside the Kitchen Garden and nestling in a blue grass which is in the larger alpine bed. Phil’s apples were originally part of a Ritual Bodies exhibition in Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. His Heart Shaped Pornography series was hand-written onto hundreds of apples. The haiku-like poems scribed onto the ones I own are surprisingly delicate. My favourite reads:
‘The even horses to the rising sea’.
It makes sense to grow herbs and, some fruit, in fairly close proximity to the house. That way, if you’re cooking, you can just nip out through the back door and grab whatever you need: a handful of mint for the roast lamb, a few leaves of thyme for chicken, dill for salmon.
The first plants I put in my kitchen garden were chives. They were from my parent’s garden and they’ve thrived; haven’t been at all bothered by the pesky slugs and snails. I’ve heard that slugs avoid onions and garlic; as chives are part of the same family, maybe that’s why they’ve survived. I don’t use slug pellets so I’m always pleased to find plants that are less likely to be attacked by the slug population. I’ve tried planting dill but that was eaten within days; so then I put dill in a small pot but it was nibbled down to the stalk.
I am also growing strawberries, lemon thyme and rhubarb in the Kitchen Garden. Last year we tried carrots and giant pumpkins from seed; they didn’t work out. The kids were really looking forward to the pumpkins so I might try those again. The radishes, however, grew in abundance but, no one wanted to eat them!!
For me, this fruit is just so evocative of Summer; there’s nothing like biting into a soft, sweet strawberry, particularly when you’ve had the satisfaction of growing them yourself. I purchased two different kinds of strawberry plants from the garden centre this Summer. They produced a small but, steady, harvest. To stop the fruit rotting, I placed nests of straw around them (presumably, that is where the name strawberry came from). Straw seems to put the slugs off; broken egg shells are also a deterrent. In the top bed of the patio, are three strawberry plants with lavender in-between. I love the purple of the lavender, it’s such a pretty colour but I haven’t noticed much scent. To suppress weeds, I’ve added a layer of mulch; it also keeps the soil moist. Our patio area gets very hot (the garden faces South) and, the strawberries have loved the heat. My eldest son is ten and, experimented with making jam from the strawberries. It was not the most palatable but, it’s lovely to see him embracing the Good Life! Now it’s September, I’m already looking forward to the strawberries we might have next June.