Around My Edible Garden

August 2014

Plums – more specifically my small purple damsons – are ready to harvest. Before I picked them, I’ve wracked my brains trying to think what to make this year. Jam, for certain, but this will only use a portion of the crop. I made a Georgian plum vodka one year with damsons, but still have plenty of this left (indeed it is now fully mellowed with age). I know many people in the UK make a damson gin, so that’s a possibility. I’ve also made another English speciality, damson cheese, before – that concentrated paste of damson pulp thickened with sugar that is cut and served with cheese. I will probably do more of that. Perhaps some fruit roll-ups as I’ve been e-shopping for a dehydrator. And, somewhere – perhaps in Nigel Salter’s book, Tender Volume II or one of my many Eastern European recipe books – damsons are used in savoury dishes. Well, I guess I can’t put off picking the crop.

damsons_august2014

Nearby are the fuzzy quinces – still growing with a month or more to go before they are picked. Going by the number of fruit on the tree, I’ll have a smaller crop this year, but still enough to make sweets, pickles and to cook a few up with lamb or pork. As you can tell, I think if my garden as an extension of my larder – always thinking of what to cook.

quince_august

The second cropping of raspberries is just beginning – these ones on this year’s canes. They are generally taller canes that produce larger berries.

raspberries_august

My new thornless blackberry vine is also beginning to turn colour – soon ready to pick. There are so few this first year, I might just use them in an apple and blackberry pie or crumble.

blackberries_august

The grapes had reached that stage of plump unripeness that I knew it was time to harvest and finally make that verjus – which is also sometimes spelled verjuice. After doing some research on the subject of how to produce verjus (which is mind boggling in its variations), I settled on a traditional French method that some say dates back to the 18th century, although it is possible that it is even older. See my post on Victoire’s Verjus for the full story and the recipe.

unripe_grapes_august

Several of the herbs have started to go to seed. The most spectacular is the fennel, now towering over 8 feet in height. When the seeds get a bit bigger and slightly dry, I’ll collect them for seasoning. The parsley and its cousin, celery leaf, have also bolted. It is the second year for these biannual plants. I’ll be collecting some of the seeds for sowing next year.

tall_fennel_august

Half harvested! More to be picked, processed and preserved.

damson_feature

Tasks to be done:

  1. After harvest, the plum and cherry trees need their annual “haircut” to keep them at a reasonable height.
  2. Collect fennel seeds for cooking.
  3. Collect and dry the parsley and celery leaf seeds for sowing new plants next year.
  4. Trim the lavender hedge, removing all the dead-heads now that the flowering has finished.
Around My Edible Garden is my monthly diary entry detailing what is happening in my garden this past month, part of the Garden Share Collective (GSC), maintained by Lizzie@strayedtable. A chronological listing of my garden blog posts is listed Diaries in the Menu bar.
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26 comments

  1. Those plums are such a beautiful colour – and all the fruits look delicious. It is wonderful to be able to harvest so much from our garden, but at this time of year I am only too aware of the amount of work it entails. I’m not complaining – I just have a lot more admiration now for people who are able to see the process through from beginning to end.

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    • Damsons are generally prolific and even in off years you get a lot. I think they are really wild trees and they grow in hedgerows here in Britain. The hardest thing about dealing with damsons is how to pit them. They are too small to cut and stone. I generally stew them with very little water and either pick out the pits or run the whole thing through a food mill to extract the pulp. It really is worth it as (in my opinion) damsons have the best and most intense plum flavour than all the other varieties.

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    • Oh, Elaine, it really isn’t very large – an urban garden in an old neighbourhood. Just crowded with fruit. In fact, we have very little lawn as most of it has been sacrificed to grow berries. The fruit trees are espalier – flat growing along one wall and take up very little room. I do love it, however. It is always a pleasure to go out in the morning and collect berries.

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  2. Isn’t that quince gorgeous? I never collected fennel seed as it always self seeded so prolifically, though obviously not where I wanted it, so I should have collected and sown properly!

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    • The quinces are lovely. They always amaze me with their soft down fuzzy skin. I collect the fennel seed mainly for cooking. You are right, they do self seed all over the place – and usually not where you want them.

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    • The fennel now towers over everything. Because it is producing seed heads, its lovely green foliage (which I use a lot in cooking) tends to get a bit yellow and not at all useful. I love that damson colour, but then blue is my favourite colour!

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  3. These are so beautiful. I cannot believe what a ridiculous garden you have. That fennel plant is outrageous. Where do you live? It must be such a special thing to be growing all of these magical beautiful plants and fruits that you can cook with. It really is a dream. Quinces? For real? I’m jealous.

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    • I live in Sheffield in the UK and the garden was established over a number of years in a small urban space (relatively small!). I put in three flat-grown espalier trees of fruit that Is not normally seen in my grocery store – quinces, Morello cherry and damson plum. The espaliers mean they can be grown against a wall and take up little space. The rest either grows in pots on the patio or in a small patch of land that I reclaimed from a horrid looking lawn that was more moss than grass. It really is amazing what you can grow in a small space, though I do dream of having an orchard, a huge veg plot, a formal herb garden edged with clipped box hedges, and lots and lots of space.

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    • Yes, quince is easy. I have a vigorous variety called Meeches Prolific. It is also hardy and disease resistant. I have such a small urban garden that I don’t have room for anything else, though I would like to have a vegetable plot someday.

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  4. If I lived next door, I would be hanging over the fence asking for a few damson plums. I love them, second to Satsuma blood plums. I have these and Prune D’argent planted but all my plums are still young here in the ‘new’ place so the crops are not good and we have to net thoroughly. The Plum Gin sounds like a nice drop. The whole garden sounds really inviting- it would be such a pleasure to wander around among the fruit trees and vines in Autumn.

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  5. I never tire of reading your posts. It’s like you have a glorious garden and keep it productive and magical so that I don’t have to, but I can visit online each week and feel a little piece of wonder at yours. Inspiring stuff.

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  6. I envy you your quinces! I’ve planted a quince tree earlier this year but the only two fruits it produced have been knocked off (wind? kids? who knows!). My Autumn Bliss raspberries are just about finished, I might use the last few in an apple and raspberry crumble now that I’ve been inspired by your recipe; that does sound good!

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    • We are away at the moment, but I hope my son is picking the raspberries in our absence! Last year they continued producing until the end of October. Quince should be ready soon after we get back. The tree was three years old when I got it and took another year (or two?) to really start to produce. I’m sure yours will soon.

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