Harvesting is a two sided coin: on the one side, the satisfaction, the pleasure at the gathering in and the putting into store and on the other the tyranny of the full basket of courgettes or beans, or whatever is this year's glut, crying out to be transformed into something which will keep while the garden sleeps. It is also the time to take stock of how the year has been. What grew well, what failed, what was far more trouble than it was worth, what was wonderful and will go on the list for next year?
It has been a good year for apples for us. Yesterday we picked wheelbarrows full from the Howgate Wonder and there is more to come from the less sunny side of the tree. These are not a problem. They store wonderfully and slowly sweeten so that after Christmas they can be eaten by themselves although now they are a cooker and need sugar. The trickier apples are the ones on the old trees in the kitchen garden. They are smaller and sourer but we can't bear to throw them away. This year's plan is to try some apple juice and we are busily saving plastic bottles with the intention of freezing some if it is successful.
In the kitchen garden we have had successes:
runner and French beans, tons more than we can eat, some translated this morning into Spiced Pickled Runner Beans to an old Delia Smith recipe.
courgettes, firmly in the tyranny category, some huge ones waiting to become marrow and ginger jam.
lovely pink fir apple potatoes
red onions, drying off in the greenhouse
and mangetout and Hurst Greenshaft peas, finished now but copious and well worth growing.
The broad beans were good but there were nothing like enough: note to self, sow lots more next year but don't bother trying to keep them over winter. A February sowing is fine.
We have also had the inevitable failures. The garlic was puny and, having been harvested, is now rotting away as fast as it can go. The broccoli is being consumed by cabbage white caterpillars despite the hours I have spent picking them off and the carrots were bent and strange, our stony soil too much for them.
And then there are the wait and sees: the celeriac looks promising, although there aren't very many of them. The leeks were good last year and we have responded by sowing them in what it feels like their hundreds. It would be good if we get some butternut squash but for that the sun needs to shine for the next couple of months and plenty more sunshine is needed to ripen the tomatoes. The plants are heavy with three or four different varieties, plum, tiny Gardeners' Delight and large beefsteak ones but all remain stubbornly green.
It is not a day for the garden today. Outside it rains softly but steadily. The other side of the valley has vanished into mist. I made pickles this morning and Ian is now making bread. The cat has the right idea.