My August back garden is full of dazzling fruit, thanks to the warm and sunny weather we have been enjoying in Somerset. (Today the weather is quite different: grey skies, wild wind, rain – but the sunshine is set to return.)
I grow fruit in the ground and in pots (see this blog), in the polytunnel, up walls, across fences. Some are old established trees which were already very mature when I moved here 14 years ago, most were added during the past eight years, others are new this year.
I have already harvested all of the currant and gooseberry bushes – including 6 1/2 kg of sweet, fat gooseberries picked and frozen in one afternoon. Now we are snacking on raspberries, Japanese wineberries and the first dark fruit on the thornless blackberry.
This blackberry grows along a fence and has produced a huge amount of berries this year. They are larger than wild blackberries and not quite as sweet, but they are easier to pick (no scratches, I can just pop out into the back garden to nibble on a few) and make excellent use of vertical space.
The wild blackberries are almost ready for foraging. At the very bottom of my garden, in the hedges around the allotment and around Charles’ garden at Homeacres, elderberries are starting to ripen too. I’m looking forward to making wine, cordials and other delicious concoctions with this free abundance.
The fruity highlight of the year so far for me are the peaches – an unexpected, beautiful crop. I was given three trees earlier this year which were unwanted stock, having spent too long in small pots: one labelled ‘apricot’ and two ‘nectarine’. I thought I’d give them a chance, potted them on into large plastic tubs (using a mixture of homemade and shop bought organic compost, chicken manure pellets, rock dust and seaweed meal) and willed them to succeed.
The apricot is still considering its new accommodation, producing only lush leaves this year, but the other two small trees are clearly enjoying the care and attention lavished upon them after neglect in the nursery. They produced flowers, then small fruit. One of the nectarines was mislabelled and is in fact a peach! As newly planted trees I should have removed the emerging fruit to allow the tree to put its energy into establishing good roots, but it is impossible to remove small furry baby peaches, especially when there are so few: they look so full of hope and potential.
(If the trees had been planted into the ground with a view to becoming large established trees I would have removed the baby fruit, but in pots and as rescued trees, I am not sure how long they will be productive so felt freer to experiment.)
Here are two of the peaches in different stages of ripening. There are about 10 fruit on this little tree.
I have eaten one which had fallen off, not entirely ripe but peachy enough to be a pleasure to eat in the sunshine. The others are almost ready.
The nectarine has 6 fruit of different sizes. So far two are ripe enough to eat, the rest not far behind. They are delicious.
The Japanese wine berries are ripe now too. I am looking forward to the greengages, the first year this young tree has produced fruit – and hoping they don’t all blow off in the wild wind we are having today. Quite a lot of the apples have fallen from my old tree. This is what my neighbours call a ‘cooker-eater’. The apples are delicious but need using or preserving fairly quickly, they do not keep.
Casualties this year were my cherry tree and a small plum tree – both produced a lot of early blossom but no fruit. I think it must have been damaged by late frosts.
Of course many vegetables are technically fruits. Outdoors I am growing tomatoes, summer and winter squashes and courgettes. A new discovery this year is Tromboncino d’Albenga (from Chiltern Seeds.) It grows like a triffid in my front garden, spreading across the raised beds and up the pea frames (the peas have fortunately finished). The striking, long young fruit taste great and are pleasingly seed free. I love the firm texture, delicious in summer stews and salads. I think it should make excellent pickles too.
Left on the vine, the Tromboncino will grow as a winter squash: it is so abundant that it is easy to harvest enough for summer use and leave plenty on the plant to mature.
Also pictured below is Tortarello Abruzzese Chiaro, again from Chiltern Seeds (I clearly got carried away on their website!), a fruit which resembles a cucumber but is botanically a melon. It has a firm texture and tastes sweet and crunchy with a cucumberish flavour. I’m munching one as I write this.
The squash above is a Pumpkin Nut, also from (guess where?!) Chiltern Seeds. This produces an edible squash with dark seeds that do not need peeling before eating. I grew two plants – one is in my garden and the other at Charles’, for comparison. We are looking forward to trying this squash in the autumn.
Tomatillo grows outside and in the polytunnel. I love tomatillo and have been growing them for years. They make fantastic salsa, chutneys and fried dishes and will continue cropping until the frosts kill them off.
Also in the polytunnel are melons, a grapevine, cape gooseberries and many different kinds of aubergine, tomato, cucumber, sweet peppers and chillies. I mulched this tunnel in late spring with compost, seaweed meal and some rock dust: everything has been grown without further feeding.
One of my favourite summer dishes is this salsa, made with the harvests of the day.
Summer Abundance Salsa
This salad is designed to adapt to whatever you have in your garden and kitchen, changing weekly as new crops ripen and others finish. It is fresh, fruity, zingy, spicy and crunchy.
5 cups of fruit – tomatoes, tomatillo, melon, cucumber, apple, sweet pepper, courgette, summer squash – whatever you have
1/2 – 1 cup cup finely chopped salad or cooking onions. I love raw onion so would add 1 cup, most people might prefer less
juice of 1 lime or lemon
A good glug of olive oil
1/2 cup Thai basil (lemon or lime basil is good too, or a mixture of sweet basil, coriander, oregano)
Chilli pepper – deseeded and finely chopped. The quantity depends on personal preference and the strength of your chillies!
Deseed (if necessary) and dice the fruit into 1 cm or thereabouts pieces.
Shred the basil.
In a jug, whisk together the citrus juice, chilli(es) and oil.
Put everything in a bowl, mix and serve.
This keeps for several days in the fridge.