Harvest festival is coming around again, farmers markets and greengrocers are full of wholesome, local produce and it is the time to look back on the glorious summer and to enjoy the delicious range of late summer and autumn crops that are now coming our way.
Many communities will be hosting produce festivals; a chance for keen gardeners to show off their array of home grown crops. Even the RHS is in on the celebrations, hosting the London Harvest Festival Show (8-9th October, Lindley Hall, Westminster). This celebration of British produce includes a giant pumpkin competition! Another event rising in popularity is Apple Day. Spurred by the loss of our traditional orchards and celebrating the 3000 plus varieties of British apple, the first Apple Day was held in the old Apple Market in Covent Garden in 1990, bringing fruit back there for the first time in 17 years. Now rolled out across the country it is a quirky celebration of the humble apple, not to mention ample opportunity to try some cider!
One way to celebrate the variety of British produce available is to step outside your door and take advantage of all that nature has to offer this autumn. Blackberries and damsons are seasonal favourites of course, for pies, crumbles and damson gin, but what else can you find in the hedgerow? Elderberries can be used to make elderberry wine or syrup, or added to a fruit pie or crumble, in September and October. Hazelnuts are also ripening at this time and make a moreish autumnal snack. If you're feeling creative they also pair well with chocolate in biscuits, or crushed to make an additional crunchy crumble topping. The hawthorn plant is a brilliant all rounder when it comes to foraging; the leaves, flowers and berries all being edible. Known for it's benefits to heart and circulatory health, it can be used in a variety of ways. An easy way to enjoy the berries is as a tea. Place the berries in a paper bag and leave them to dry out in a warm, dark place for several months. Once dried they can be added to boiling water to create a healthy tea.
|Hazelnuts are in plentiful supply September - October|
|Tasty chocolate and hazelnut cookies|
If you're feeling inspired to go out hedgerow harvesting, why not try these two simple recipes, from www.visitwoods.org.uk:
Create a Wild Fruit Vinegar to use as a tangy salad dressing, or added to hot water to treat a sore throat. Blackberries, Raspberries, Elderberries, Rosehips and Rowanberries all work well in this recipe, depending on what you are able to find. Wash the fruit, discard any rotten ones and weigh what you have left over. In a glass bowl lightly press until a little juice flows. For elderberries add approximately 500ml of White Wine Vinegar for each 350g of fruit. For other fruit you can experiment a little, depending on how sweet or tart you would like it to be.Cover and leave to steep for 3-5 days, stirring occasionally. Strain the fruit out using muslin cloth and add 350g of Sugar for every 250-300ml of liquid depending how sweet you would like the vinegar. Transfer to a pan and briefly bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Store in a bottle or jar.
Autumn is also the season for game meats. Try this quick and easy Bramble Sauce recipe, delicious on venison or game.
A glass of red wine, 125g blackberries plus a few to decorate, 250ml beef stock, one tablespoon balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon of honey.
Heat the wine in a pan to cook off the alcohol before adding the blackberries, balsamic vinegar and stock. Cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes. When the blackberries have broken down and the consistency is thicker, add the honey to taste. Serve with roast or pan fried meat and garnish with a few berries.