what's in season: october

windfall apples, October 2015
Behold the apples’ rounded worlds:
juice-green of July rain,
the black polestar of flowers, the rind
mapped with its crimson stain.

The russet, crab and cottage red
burn to the sun’s hot brass,
then drop like sweat from every branch
and bubble in the grass.

They lie as wanton as they fall,
and where they fall and break,
the stallion clamps his crunching jaws,
the starling stabs his beak.

In each plump gourd the cidery bite
of boys’ teeth tears the skin;
the waltzing wasp consumes his share,
the bent worm enters in.

I, with as easy hunger, take
entire my season’s dole;
welcome the ripe, the sweet, the sour,
the hollow and the whole.

Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

I love Indian summers, they are just so pretty.  This year it seems even more welcome as summer-proper was so rubbish. I am feeling quite upbeat and in the mood to make jams and pickles. I recently had a small stall at Transition Kentish Town's Urban Harvest Festival with a selection of easy preserves to make with windfalls or foraged fruit, as well as gluts of vegetables. I was amazed at how much people liked them. I was letting people taste the preserves, yet they wanted to pay me. Blimey, I thought to myself. I ended up just giving it a way. Karma, baby (I hope!)  I am not planning on going into business quite yet, but it was very gratifying.

It really is the time for all those early autumn fruit and vegetables such as apples and pears and perfect British root vegetables such as Jerusalem artichokes and celeriac. Of course this is the best time of the year for foraging mushrooms, or even just letting someone else do the work for you and buy the results at the local farmers' market. It's a great time to make preserves as I've mentioned, from plum jam to damson gin, raspberry jam to chutneys and pickles.

The first Bramley apples are now in season, as are plums and pears. And don't forget this is the beginning of crumble season! The Jerusalem artichoke season is just beginning and cauliflowers are at their peak, together with main crop potatoes and carrots, sprouts, and broccoli. Lettuce is running out by the middle of the month, and courgettes finish towards the end. But by the end of the month, pumpkins and squashes will be piling up (and I do like my pumpkin soup. Actually I love my mushroom soup too . . . perfect for the cold, damp evenings which are slowly sneaking up on us).

Should you be celebrating Halloween this year, can I recommend some vampire bat wings with blood dipping sauce? They are delicious (and not bats were harmed!) Last year I also made a witches' brew soup. It looks suitably ghoulish (full of intestines and skulls), but it is really a hearty winter warmer of pea and ham and a few added extras (such as coloured pasta tubes and mushroom "skulls").

vegetables, herbs and wild greens:
artichokes (globe), artichokes (Jerusalem), aubergines, beetroot, borlotti beans (for podding), broccoli (calabrese), Brussels sprouts, cabbages (various green varieties, red and white), carrots, cardoons, cauliflower, celeriac, chard, chanterelles, chicory, chillies, courgettes, cucumber, endive, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, leeks, marrow, mushrooms, nettles, onions, parsnips, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins (and squashes), rocket, salsify, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, watercress, wood blewits

fruit and nuts:
apples, blackberries, chestnuts, crab apples, cranberries, damsons, elderberries, grapes (English hothouse), hazelnuts, juniper berries, medlars, mulberries, pears, quince, raspberries, rosehips, rowan berries, sloes, walnuts

meat and game:
, chicken, goose (wild), grouse, guinea fowl, hare, mallard, mutton, partridge, pork, rabbit, turkey, wood pigeon

fish and shellfish:
cockles, cod, crab (brown, hen and spider), eels, hake, lobster, mackerel, mussels, oysters (native and rock), prawns, river trout (brown and rainbow), salmon (wild), scallops, sea bass, shrimp, sprats, squid

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