Seasonal Fruit from an Author’s Summer Garden
I have gardened organically for the last twenty years in Hertfordshire, England. When I moved into a house with a medium size back garden overgrown with blackberries, thistles and nettles I knew I must invest time and money. So, I decided to make my money work for me. Instead of concentrating on ornamental plants I planted fruit trees. I now have a wild plum tree, a cooking apple tree, three eating apple trees, two pear trees, two plum trees and one cherry tree. And believe you me I have made mistakes. My Hertfordshire Russet Apple is in the wrong place – too close to a lilac bush that forms part of a living screen to filter the wind round the garden. And I’ve just realized that the cherry tree is not self fertile. I need another cherry tree for pollination but where can I plant it? I’m running out of space and also covet a peach tree. Apart from this, my investment paid off. This year the bullace provided a magnificent crop. The fruit is small a little bigger than large grapes. It can be eaten fresh or made into jam, chutney, pies and crumbles.
I thinned the plums in early July and looked mournfully at a large bucket of hard green fruit. However, this gave good results. The tree is loaded with plums as large as apricots. The pear trees a Conference and a Sweet William are a little disappointing because the fruit is on the small side but I’ve no doubt it will be delicious. The small crop from the Bramley Cooking Apple tree disappointed me this year. I think the tree needs a thick layer of organic manure in the autumn and organic fertiliser in the spring. The eating apple trees are heavy with fruit that will be ready for picking in late September and early October. When I first planted fruit trees I did not know that to avoid frost decimating the blossom in spring it is best to plant ones which belong to group three of four because they flower in late spring – hopefully after the last frost.
This year, I have been using fruit in season. My strawberries grown in a sunny spot in well-manured soil yielded a bowlful a day and enough to make strawberry ice-cream. Next came summer raspberries – a disappointing yield – but the autumn raspberries look promising. In 2011, I might dig up the raspberry canes and the strawberries and swap beds using new stock. It is said that strawberries do produce well for more than three years.
From the redcurrant bushes hung strings of red fruit as bright as jewels. As a result there is a row of jars of redcurrant jelly in the store cupboard and two containers of the fruit in the freezer with which I might make redcurrant cordial. Next to the redcurrant bushes are gooseberry bushes. These were star performers this year. Luscious yellow-green fruits bursting with sweetness to be eaten fresh and hard three-quarters ripe fruit for chutney and jam as well as a full container in the freezer for the delights of fruit fool or a pie. And now I’m eating the bullace – a small bowlful every morning as part of my five a day fruit and vegetables.
In addition to these fruits the rhubarb is growing well and I harvested enough to make pies but not enough to make chutney. Fortunately I have a couple of jars left over from last year.
Although I regard marrows as vegetables not fruit I have two giant ones. With one I shall make marrow and ginger jam with crystalised ginger as soon as possible. The other I will stuff and bake in foil.
Apart from fruit from my garden there are wild fruits such as blackberries which I eat raw, preserve and use with cooking apples to make pies. Elderberries make excellent cordials and various hips and haws such as rosehips from which jelly or a syrup can be made. Apart from free food it is very pleasant to forage in the country.
I enjoy growing and eating the fruits of my garden as well as preserving, pickling and cooking them in various ways and always hope for bumper crops.
Every year I like to try something new. This year I grew a virus free strain of strawberries from seed. They have flourished and are planted as an edging to a long flower border along the path in the back garden. To encourage them to root well, I have picked off the pretty pink flowers and hope for a bumper crop next year. I also planted Cape Gooseberry seeds. They sprouted. I transplanted the seedlings but they did not flourish and died after two months. I shall try again next year. And – possibly – plant a peach tree .
Growing my own fruit, herbs and vegetables is rewarding and provides excellent exercise after spending many hours at the computer or sitting still while researching.
Tangled Hearts set in the reign of Queen Anne 1702 – 1714 received 5* reviews can be ordered from bookshops and is available from Amazon & elsewhere.