September and garden grazing
Our gourmet gardener Tara Kate Linnane takes us through fruit picking and garden grazing...
For as long as I can remember, September has given us some beautiful sunny days and burning sunsets, leading us like little jewels from the bright summer into the autumnal glow. I have always liked this time of year and some of the jobs that go with it, such as hunting in hedgerows for fresh blackberries and picking apples.
I began planting my food forest a few years ago with very young trees. This was the first successful year in which a couple of trees set fruit; however, with the recent wind I sadly lost my last hanging apple! Creating a food forest takes a lot of time and patience, and I am looking forward to one day sitting among the mature fruit trees thinking about how I can use up the abundance, but, until then, I will just try to enjoy the process of watching them grow.
For those that are lucky enough to have a fruit-bearing tree, the apple picking season has commenced. Picking apples is pretty straightforward – first check to see if any are ripe by holding them gently in the palm of your hand and twist to see if the stalk comes easily. If you have to force the fruit, it probably is not ripe enough to eat.
If you decide to store apples, you have to carefully place them in a cool, dark place and they should keep for months. They need to be picked without any bruises or blemishes. Windfalls can be processed or even cooked and frozen for keeping.
If you are considering planting some fruit trees, I highly recommend visiting the websiteorangepippin.com.
It is an A-Z directory of fruit trees that gives details about each variety and its unique flavour, and if you are planning to incorporate some edibles into your garden this winter, it is the perfect place to start.
You don’t need an orchard to enjoy autumn treats. Look no further than the country hedgerows. They are full of interesting wild flavours, peppered with autumn colour and a feast for foraging, from fat hips to intense berries. A good edible hedgerow not only provides a wildlife habitat, it can also offer seasonal flavours you can’t buy in the shops.
Within the average hedgerow you will commonly find blackberries and dog rose informally intertwined with other deciduous shrubs such as blackthorn, all of which are edible.
If you have an exposed boundary in your garden that requires a shelter belt to minimise wind or screen out unsightly views, why not create an edible hedgerow of your own.
Suitable species include hazelnut, blackberry,sloeberry, dog rose, wild plum and elderberry.
When planting a hedgerow, you can generally plant a double row with five plants per metre. Hazelnut is a cheap and effective way to bulk out a hedgerow. It’s extremely fast growing, and also tolerant of a wide range of soils and is shade-tolerant.
Blackberry plants can be used as a single-species hedgerow or in a mixed hedgerow with, for example, Blackthorn. Blackthorn or sloe berries from the prunus spinosa look like blueberries. But unlike blueberries, they have a tart flavour so are best cooked before eating. They are often used to make autumn jam or the liqueur, sloe gin. The dog rose makes a wonderful informal hedgerow and the hips can be collected and used for vitamin C-rich syrups.
Planting an edible hedgerow is a cheap, fast and effective way to build a boundary.
The benefits also include providing pollen, fruit and nesting areas along with a wealth of preserving opportunities allowing you to graze in your garden.
Tara Kate Linnane is from Kilnaleck in County Cavan. She is a horticulturalist with a passion for growing vegetables at home. Tara recently was runner up in RTÉ's Super Garden competition.
She has an Instagram page with her husband Barry @two peas in a polytunnel.