Sunday, 17 August 2014

Summer delights in the Holly Cottage garden

It's August. And despite the slight chill in the air since the start of the month beckoning the dawn of autumn, here in the Holly Cottage we are still hanging on to the notion of summer. And I have to look back over the last couple of months since I wrote here and wonder where did the time go? And what of the delights of summer that are now packed away in a 'full to the brim' freezer and memories of brightly lit evenings locked in digital memories in the shape of pictures on a smart phone?

You could swear
you were in...
Well. Most of June was spent keeping up with the bounty of strawberries. Every year - for the last four - I have to stand back in awe of how six strawberry plants came to be over a hundred, and are still multiplying. And every year there are more and more soft, sweet, perfectly shaped strawberries presenting themselves for nourishment duty. The fruits are put away in various forms - in the belly of course (straight up strawberry, strawberry cake, strawberry sauce, strawberry yogurt, strawberry ice cream.....), in the freezer and a in few pots of jam mixed up with raspberries and blackberries. The tops of the plants have been cut back for new leaves to form for next year. Not too late to do that still if you're wondering. 

Thankfully the raspberries present less work and we always leave the lion's share to the blackbirds and the sparrows. They have been cut back also - and careful they don't take over your garden! There's a few autumnal raspberries out there yet, waiting to surprise us in colder days. This year we managed to lock away some of the raspberries saved from our feathered friends in a few precious jars of jam (and cake - recipe available on demand, and yogurt and....), along with a few jars of the blackcurrant neighbours which are just way too delicious to be real. Again, they have been cut back too - I only wish we had space for more. One tip - the bountiful blackcurrant bushes that we have all came from cuttings from the Cappaduff homestead - no need to be buying plants if you know someone with a good stock nearby. 

Peas are packed away also and a delicious pea soup recipe developed by head chef in the Holly Cottage kitchen (I've been demoted to sous chef since Alannah came), and despite a bounty we are down to the last few. We were surprised at how excited Alannah was about them - she would stand in her play station watching us harvesting - One for Alannah, one for Holly. Poor Holly only got the ones that escaped her though. And she was so careful not to drop one in her pincer like grasp that has all the intensity that only a 10 month old person can invest. Again, I wish we had space for more (peas that is ;)), but we have new plants coming on and we might be rewarded with a few more autumn peas if the weather delivers. 

And what else? A bounty of rhubarb packed away - some in promising jars of rhubarb chutney (recipe still being developed, and an easy rhubarb cake recipe also developed), but most in the freezer for working on in darker days. Broad beans are also packed away - one hint - this year we just froze peas and beans direct, with no blanching. Much tastier when they are defrosted ;) 

As all fruit cakes should be...
Spuds are still in the ground, most of the Orla earlies are devoured and we are breaking into the Colleen and Sarpo Mira now. Disappointingly, despite the promise of 'blight free', all were touched a bit and we shall await and see if and how they have been affected, but not so bad yet. Beetroot and carrots are still sweet and full of earthy flavour. Sweetcorn, turnips, cabbages, kale and brussels sprouts are left for the cooler days while tomatoes and peppers are still 'coming on' in the greenhouse. I have to say that I think the tomatoes outdoors are always a lot healthier, but maybe that's down to our inexperienced and still, pale green fingers. Courgettes on the other hand, well - do they need any looking after at all I wonder? They just bolted from early summer - small baby courgettes were savoured first followed by later brothers and sisters of gigantic proportions. Still tasty despite the size and I recommend growing these to everyone - especially those who have little time to be worrying about more delicate species!

And so, just this week I spread some of our green manure seed onto the ground left bare by peas and those spuds devoured. We'll invest more time this year - I think, I hope - in getting more winter crops going. But in the meantime, we shall await the coming of the two tiny pears and the dozen or so apples that are slowly ripening down fruit alley. 

Summer delights
It's funny, but this summer seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. Not to worry, still plenty of nasturtium colour and lavender scented pathways to keep us happy. And shur, autumn is always a crowd pleaser despite its more fickle summer predecessor. Enjoy the last days and be sure to pack in plenty of sunshine to savour in the darker days. 

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