Warm September brings the fruit; Sportsmen then begin to shoot.
You may be relieved that I am not going to write about shooting here. A far too controversial topic for a garden blog! Far more interesting and rewarding to talk about fruit.
Last summer I found myself blackberry before starting work! It was one of the joys and surprises of working from home, heading out for a walk before the endless screentime and Teams meetings, and in July coming home with a bag full of fruit! However, it was early July, far too early for blackberrying. Whilst this summer will no doubt be remembered for being wet and grey, it has produced fruit closer to the time of year we used to expect. Blackberrying this year has definitely been an August pursuit. Both this year and last, it has been a joy to see blackberrying being passed down the generations. On various walks we have seen people of all ages filling the ubiquitous plastic bag with berries and heading off literally red-handed!
This year we are also lucky enough to have an abundant supply of blackberries at the far end of the garden. This is a mixed blessing. Twenty years ago we spent many hours hauling out bramble from this overgrown and chaotic area of the garden. Now it seems that some of it is back, delighted to have been exposed by some judicious pruning of a giant laurel. We are hoping that we can contain it and manage it in such a way that it will continue to bear fruit in future years without taking over the entire garden.
Last year was the first time we added bramble jelly to our jam-making repertoire. We were inspired by a commercially bought jar and thought ‘we can do this!’ We already had the jelly strainer and stand from our crab apple jelly making so all we needed to do was delve into our ancient but trustworthy Good Housekeeping recipe book which is full of ideas for jams and jellies. In our eagerness to ensure a good set, it would be fair to say that the first batch came out a little, eh, stiff! It tasted delicious but it was firm enough to support walls! We have learned from this and the batch made last weekend is a lovely light, easy spreading consistency!
Blackberries and raspberries have certainly been the winners on the berry front this summer. The less said about strawberries, the better – too wet!! Although we worried at the start of the raspberry season as it was so wet and we found that the berries were turning mouldy before we had time to pick them. A more pleasant benefit of the rain turned out to be a surprisingly good crop of cherry plums which were the first fruits this year to make us get our jam making it ready.
Cherry plums are small, dark red on the outside but glowing orange on the inside. They are also extremely sharp! Too sharp for even enjoying in something like a crumble. Believe me, we have tried it! If you enjoy you jam with a slight tang to it, cherry plums are for you!
Now as we head into September we are starting to watch the crab apple tree with interest. Fruits that seemed quite small only a week ago, are now starting to look a good size. The longer you leave crab apples, the more juice you tend to get for the jelly making process. That said, there are limits. Into October is good, but by November the fruits are falling off the tree and are better suited for bird food or potentially wiring into an Advent decoration. But let’s not even mention the ‘C’ word just yet!