novice gardener's first complex recipe using produce

Blackberry and apple loaf.

It’s official: today is the first day of autumn, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as Keats called it in Sept 1819. He also mentioned the ‘moss’d cottage trees’ bending with the weight of apples.

Unfortunately at our Yorkshire allotments it has been so windy recently that  the apples have blown clean off the trees, moss’d-cottage or otherwise. ‘Windfalls’ doesn’t cover it: they didn’t fall, they were pushed.

I’ve been forced to make a lot of blackberry and apple loaf. Forced to eat it too. Slathered in double cream from Tommy Tesco’s. OK, the recipe only uses one small apple, but it’s a start.

It isn’t just apples that toppled: plums plummeted and there was a downpour of damsons, like purple rain.

winds sweep our Yorkshire allotment

Battered beans

Veg suffered too. Beans were battered and sunflowers summarily beheaded by the wind’s guillotine.

Only crops that know how to keep their heads down have survived: cabbages, beetroot, pumpkins. The low riders of the vegetable realm.

Actually, I can’t imagine anything defeating the pumpkin plant. It had me afear’d all summer,  not just from the prospect of pumpkin-based meals for all eternity. No, the stealthy yet rapid way it covered ground was sinister. If anyone had sat still for long enough, they would definitely have seen it growing. They’d have had to camouflage themselves in a pumpkin-shaped hide, though: the grinning pumpkin acts only when backs are turned.

allotment stories: pumpkins

A pumpkin shaped hide

So I’m glad to see Autumn. The cooler weather has put a spoke in the pumpkin’s wheel: its plan to hit the A65 and make it to Leeds seems to have died a death. I still find the size of its fruits unnerving, though; the way they lurk beneath the razor-edged leaves.

newbie gardener's first pumpkin crop


But I digress. The real point of this time of year is to yoke the menfolk and the dog together and send them off to bring home the bacon, namely brassicas and spuds, the only things numerous enough to deserve the name ‘harvest’. I don’t think a handful of runner beans and two beetroots really qualify.

But Dad asks to be excused on grounds of age (88). Fair enough: he isn’t a ‘cabbage man’ and has recently been seen buying potatoes from Charlie Co-op (he likes a nice boiled spud, and says ours ‘go abroad’ in the pan).

Then dog MS begs off. There are some urgent sticks in her ‘In’ tray, apparently, and some long overdue barking, especially at the ironing board, who needs taking down a peg or two.

As Harvest Manager, it’s obviously not my role to dig. And so the grunt work gets passed to Mr Mandy Sutter. After making protracted notes in his diary, a prelude vital to the success of any manual task, he starts unearthing spuds of myriad (well, three) hues: pink, golden, and pink and golden. I load them into boxes stuffed with newspaper and we head for the gate.

onions lounging on our Yorkshire allotment

Onions lounging

We are waylaid by the sight of onions on a neighbour’s plot, enjoying their last afternoon of warmth in a hammock, before being strung up in the shed.

Mr MS eyes them enviously and slows to a standstill. He sags under the weight of  potatoes.

I crack the whip across his glistening flanks. He doesn’t budge.

The atmosphere is not mellow. Neither is it particularly fruitful.

‘I think there’s some blackberry and apple loaf left at home,’ I say.

His eyes flare, and he moves off with his load towards the camper van.

I am triumphant: the harvest is in.