It’s been a while … but it’s harvest time already

All I can say is that the absence of posts on this site is testimony to the rapidity of this year’s growing season. We had a very warm spring with dry weather – watering, watering, watering. Thankfully, we now have our own water source on the platform and a super long hose. We’ve tried very hard to keep to our own harvested rain water, but the water butts ran out in May this year, and rain fall has been unpredictable. And carrying full watering cans to all our garden spaces is a real challenge with quite a few back injuries in the group. The hose has been a blessing.

The dry spring then gave way to torrential rain spells and very high winds. In June, the temperatures got up to 35C. That’s very unusual here, even on the south coast. That heat spell came just at the right time for ripening our fruit and veg, though it did require a lot of watering – thanks to Jenny and Madeleine in our group, who have become the main manipulators of a very long and cumbersome hose.

So we’ve already had beans and courgettes, the chard has been picked and is coming back, and the spectacle of the summer is our fruit trees. It’s clearly been a great fruiting year. All our fruit trees are heavy with fruit. Even the plum has come back from what looked like a terminal attack of aphids in the spring. We’ve already collected windfalls and tasted the pears: delicious. It’s true much of the fruit has been ‘shared’, i.e. there are signs that other creatures have tested it before us. But it’s a case of just cutting out the burrowed bits. Apple purée made with our perfumed Tinsley Quince apples is delicious. And even Crawley Beauty has delivered this year: beautiful dappled green and red fruit which are sweetish cookers.

Our pear harvest looks amazing – both fat Beurre Hardy and the more svelte Concorde. I’ve just been reading up on harvesting pears as it turns out it’s not such a great idea to let them ripen on the tree. Last year I think we left the pears too long and in the relative heat of my conservatory. They were mushy and flavourless when we came to make them into crumble for our harvest supper in mid October. It seems pears need to be harvested when barely ripe and kept to ripen in a cool place, not in the sun. Seems counter intuitive but here’s the source – extension.oregonstate.edu . Oregon State University who post some very detailed and scientifically careful horticultural advice.

We’re only at the end of August now, and have just experienced that rare thing: a really hot and sunny bank holiday weekend. We’ve already got our harvest supper planned for the end of September this year – at least three weeks earlier than in previous years. I think Tuesday will see us harvesting at least some of the pears. Will they last until the end of September for Jenny’s pear and Wensleydale soup? We’ll just have to see. Otherwise, it’ll be pear sorbet, pear jelly, pear purée in the freezer stored to be made into crumble. But there’s no doubting: this has definitely been the best year yet for our mini-orchard.

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