Saturday, 2 October 2010

This Generous Earth

Even wild food has excelled this autumn. Having suffered from an absence of mushrooms (Boletus Edulis) for several years, we've now had a reasonable harvest. The freezer is full, we've eaten plenty of omelettes, and there's even been a few left over for drying. I slice them quite thinly, put them out in the sun on racks, and when quite dry I give them a final blast above our wood fired oven. I use these mostly in winter Risottos.

It's harvest time at Haddock's. Unfortunately we've had a shortage of Butternuts this year, these few will hardly see us through to Christmas. But there's always something else.

When, in 1950, Philip Oyler wrote his delightful book about this region, he didn't have to look far for his title. He called it quite simply 'The Generous Earth'. The Walnut tree (above) being one of the MOST generous. The nuts are just beginning to drop, and are looking good; in a bad year almost every nut can have a resident worm.

At this time of year, wherever one looks there's something waiting to be gathered, eaten, stored, or preserved. Photography can't do justice to my Bramley tree, it's both huge and covered in fruit, and the windfalls lie deep beneath it. I actually smuggled this tree into France, because (as any English cook will tell you) the Bramley is the most important apple of the year, and they are not available here.

Not quite wine-making time, but very soon the vinyards will be overflowing with foreign students and migrant workers, busying themselves with grape-filled baskets. All my farming neighbours used to have their own small private vinyards, usually making about 2000 litres per family, but sadly all these are long gone. What fun we used to have.

Ah! And at the end of the day, who can pass by a fig tree without stopping for a few of their delicious fruits.

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  1. I've never seen a walnut tree before. When we were younger, we used to have a macadamia nut tree which used to be prolific. Hard work to get the nut to open but it was always worth the effort.

  2. And I've never seen a Macadamia tree. Love the nuts though!

  3. That's just beautiful. Love to see these pictures!

  4. Cro - Haddocks has done you proud. Despite the rough winter and all the weather conditions we've have had a good harvest here too. I've got three boxes of marrows and made another bucket of marrow and ginger jam today! PS compliments aside - I really do think you're a great bloke, I love the diversity of your blog posts and those of all the other folk's I drop in on (OMG I'm blushing!)

  5. Bountiful...I wish I lived close enough to share!

  6. Molly. Do you grow Butternuts? Since I've started I grow them exclusively. No pumpkins, and no marrows. They're delicious.

    Jacqueline. I wish I had people close enough who'd like to share. So much gets wasted.

  7. There's a guy here in Bath who brings BAGFULLS of Quince into the pub, for people to help themselves. That's where mine came from this year. Each year, I find some, and usually they are in a box outside a house which says, 'Please help yourself'. Local market?


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