In this month’s issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News, I’m talking about late summer gluts in the garden. The copy deadline is half way through the previous month to the cover date, and a month after writing this article, we’ve only just finished dealing with our surplus fruit, but still the lanes round here are dotted with baskets of free apples, squash, and other produce for sale or for free at the garden gate.
Before I moved to Hawkesbury Upton, I couldn’t understand how people could leave windfall fruit to rot. My previous house, in Tring, Hertfordshire, was a tiny two-up, two-down Victorian terrace with a back yard rather than a garden, so growing fruit and vegetables was out of the question. So when a neighbour encouraged us to strip her crab apple tree of all its fruit for our new hobby of winemaking, we were overwhelmed by her generosity. Only now that my kitchen is full of baskets of windfall apples – plus a bucket containing 27 pints of fresh apple juice – can I empathise with her relief at offloading her surplus to a grateful home.
When we moved here from Tring, the garden was one of the biggest attractions of our new house. Its substantial lawn was edged with mature plum trees, and an apple tree divided the lawn from the kitchen garden, where soft fruit bushes flourished. Over the years, we’ve added crab-apple, pear and more apple varieties, and damson and cherry trees have planted themselves. (Thank you, wild birds!)
Our plum trees have also multiplied, due to our habit of picking a ripe plum to eat on the move before chucking the stone on the ground wherever we happen to be. One summer, I anticipated a fairy ring of plum trees springing up where my aunt had sat in the garden, working her way through a dish of plums and leaving a circle of their stones around her chair.
This year we’ve had our largest yield of plums yet.
In the year of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s good to have a reminder that nature can also be benevolent – so much so that it’s been hard work even to give away our surplus.
There’s only so much jam one can use. When I put my latest jars of plum jam in the larder, I discovered we still had four jars from last year.
At least our plums are delicious, unlike the marrows that Nick Cragg throws in with every lot at the Show Day auction. His cry of “And a marrow!” always raises a laugh.
But in the absence of this year’s Village Show, what are we going to do with all our marrows? At the 2021 Show, I predict record entry levels in the spirits category.
Anyone for marrow rum?
If you like the idea of the Village Show, you might enjoy my novel Best Murder in Show, the first in my lighthearted Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series. Available in paperback, ebook and audiobook, it’s a cheery read to help you eke out the summer for a little longer.
Buy from online retailers here.
The paperback is also available at Hawkesbury Stores and to order from all good local bookshops.