I feel the end of summer and autumn is breathing it's cold breath across the landscape, the nights are closing in and the chill in the air is noticeable in the evening, I just love this time of year. Apparently summer showed it's face briefly, stamped its feet and then stormed off to the pub, got in a fight and stayed indoors with a fat lip and a chronic hangover!!
We've just returned from Southern Spain and a few important weeks with the family. The transition from 40C in Spain to a damp 15C back in the UK has took a few days to get used too. My golden tan is already the colour of two week old leftover noodles.
It would easy to feel a little down but I was excited to return home because I knew our fine countries hedgerows and woodlands would be full of wild, free and massively nutritious food.
This year I've left a large portion of our veggie garden go fallow to rest he soil. Apart from a few runner beans and the stragglers of last seasons Kale the garden has been taken over with chickweed and dandelions. This is a bonus because I class them as superfood and instead of my cultivated greens these two beauties go into our green smoothies. The more I crop them the quicker they grow back, I couldn't be happier with the situation, although it'll take some serious digging to get it back to the veggie garden we normally have. I'm a traditional gardener's nightmare but I know next year we will have a revitalised soil and our crops will be improved. Another plus is that we have even more wildlife in our garden. Everywhere I step froglets bounce away from my size 10 feet. Our Slow Worms and thriving, they've taken over our three compost bins for the last 15 years but they're welcome to them, they're a star addition to our little ecosystem.
We also have all our berries coming ripe, Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries at their sweetest. We don't have massive crops but everyday we have a good handful to have either in our smoothie of with some dairy free yogurt. Add a few raisins, a sliced banana and some sliced apple topped with a spoonful of orange blossom honey that I bring back from Spain for the ultimate late summer dessert.
Upon our return from Spain we called in to see some good friends Vicki and Mel and plunder their huge garden and especially their crop of wild plums that are perfectly ripe and a great addition to our morning smoothies. After a fifteen minutes tree shaking session and collecting of the fallen fruit we had a least 10-15lb of fruit. None will go to waste in the next few days. I know my mother will make her legendary jam which will see us through the winter with a great topping for our morning toast and porridge. We had a great evening catching up with 'old' friends, Vicki, Mel, Slim, PA and Ian. We sampled Mel's amazing homemade wine stocks and shared stories, we all have a lot of colourful history together. Mel's a talented man, I'll have to start making my own vino with some help and guidance from my buddy. Thanks guys we had a great evening, much appreciated.
Nutritionally plums are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium and high in Fiber, Vitamin A, K and a great source of Vitamin C. You also have a good dose of Calcium, Phosphorus and Potassium and even Omega 6 fatty acids. All you have to do is get out there and collect them and maybe shake a few trees.
The UK countryside this year is producing a bumper crop of apples, pears, damsons. The blackberries are also just becoming ripe and so are my seasonal favourite the fantastic Elderberry. Watch this space as I'll be out and about harvesting. For the last few days this is the makeup of our morning green smoothie.
25-30 wild plums
Handful of Blueberries from our garden
A few Raspberries and Strawberries from the garden
30-40 Dandelion leaves from garden
Handful of Chickweed for the garden
Half a bag of Spinach
1 stick of celery from garden
1 unwaxed Lemon with skin
1 chunk of Ginger with skin
1/4 Cantaloupe Melon
1tbsp Wheatgrass powder
1tbsp Bee Pollen
It's a great time of the year, don't be put off by the changing weather get out there and get your free nutrition harvest that will feed you through the winter if you're smart. Any excess just store in the freezer. Obviously you need a little prepping, de-stoning plums, washing and removing any bugs that have come along for the ride. When you need some fresh fruits for your smoothies just chip off a lump and away you go.
One last but very important thought. If you do go and take advantage to the wild bounty in your local countryside, please don't be greedy. Only take what you know you'll use. The wildlife at this time of year need this harvest to fatten up for the long winter. In fact I always make sure my garden has a supply of windfall apples and pears for the migrating thrushes and blackbirds. Below is a a photo of one of the beautiful migrant Fieldfares they visit us from Scandinavia every year when the winter really bites. We always makes sure they have a fresh food supply and well as unfrozen water at Cafe Hodges.