Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn Arrives; Let's Celebrate!

After much fanciful kicking & screaming, I have finally resigned myself to the fact that at 4:44 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Autumn will coming knocking at our door. I don't mind, mind you. With its shorter days, crisp mornings and cooler evenings, in fact, I've been expecting her...

The golden rod is yellow,
The corn is turning brown,
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down...
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather
And autumn's best of cheer.

~Helen Hunt Jackson~

Today is the perfect day to share a delightful Autumn book I have titled Country Harvest; A Celebration of Autumn published in 1990 and authored by Linda Burgess and Rosamond Richardson.

This book is not only a volume glowing with seasonal recipes, it is a book worthy of being nestled into a handy place easily attainable throughout the season. A table top book with distinction:) Beautifully garnished with artistic illustrations by English still life photographer Linda Burgess, there are also ideas for creative fall decorations and wonderful handmade gifts from dried flowers, seed heads and even fruits. One craves a book like this to cuddle up with to truly appreciate the beautiful bounties of Autumn whether written from the narrative of the English countryside or New England. It's a wonderful way to whet your Autumn whistle:)

Some of the ingredients and recipes may not be as familiar to those of us on this side of the pond, but oh so many of them are cross continental, if there is such a thing:)

...Beyond the garden, in the lanes that lead through the fields and meadows, there is another harvest, a wild harvest traditionally gathered by country people over the centuries. Blackberries are beginning to ripen, with that distinctive flavour which epitomizes autumn. Bright orange rowan berries hang in clusters from slender branches ready for jelly making. Elderberries and crab apples, almost always plentiful, are ready to be gathered for jams and conserves, pies and puddings. The blueish-purple damson begins to swell, and its cousin the golden bullace is starting to turn colours. The rare medlars erupts with its bizarre, brown fruits. Lavender is ready to be harvested and hug up in bunches to dry...

It would be futile on my part to try and share everything that I would like to from this book. Instead I have chosen to focus on those that capture my Blackberry and Walnut imagination.

Blackberries must not be gathered after October 11th, according to an old country tradition. October 11th was the old Michaelmas Day, before the calendar changes of 1752. It was on this day that Satan was thrown out of heaven by the Archangel Michael. He fell into a bramble bush, and now every year he takes revenge by spitting and urinating on the blackberry plant on the anniversary of his disgrace. Not only is it said, will the berries taste sour, but they will bring you bad luck.
Ploughing's begun among the gentle hills;
Wide skies where cloudy cities travel white
Canopy little acres; in the blanched serene
Tent of the heaven wheel the untidy rooks,
And settle, gawkey, on the browning tracks,
While man and horse pursue their ancient rite.
~Vita Sackville-West "The Land"~

Here in Pennsylvania, one sign of Autumn's obvious approach is the nobel walnut tree.

I haven't been able to find out much about the walnut crop in Pennsylvania. I'm not even sure one exists. However, come Fall, the walnut trees are the first to shed their leaves. My friend Harry, who owns the diner where I enjoy my morning breakfast each day, also told me that in the Spring, the walnut trees are the first to display their leaves. I'll have to pay more attention next Spring:)

Choosing walnut recipes to share from Country Harvest was most difficult. There are recipes for Walnut Ketchup, Pear and Walnut Jam, Walnut Cookies, Classic Walnut Cake and an irresistible recipe for Crunchy Harvest Butter just to name a few. I finally decided on these two.

Autumn in the Garden

Autumn is slowly showing her glow in the garden.

As the days grow shorter, it seems the bees are taking longer naps.

By now you know how haphazard I am about keeping track of all the seeds I plant. I LOVE surprises! This year I had two. This Mexican Sunflower, which is late to bloom, kept me wondering for the last few weeks. I wasn't absolutely sure of what it was going to be once it revealed itself. Can you imagine my delight when the first flower opened? There is only one plant which is still blooming so you know I will be saving seeds!

You may not be able to tell from the pictures but the next three plants are not as easy to spy as they appear. I had to do a bit of crunching up to take their pictures because they are seeking shelter whatever way they can. Personally, I'm thrilled!

The Zinnias were late to blooms this year too. Of course both Marion and I are delighted! (Marion has a birdseye view of these from her living room window:)

And finally, my second surprise of the growing season; Celosia. I think I may have shared a picture of these during the Harvest Moon. What I didn't get a chance to tell you is how surprised I am that the three of these plants appear different and yet, the seeds were all harvested from a Cockscomb stem I bought at the flea market I believe it was two years ago. I didn't plant any of these. My guess is they re-seeded themselves from last year's Cockscomb which was planted in the same area. There were probably more but I have a feeling that during my Idaho absence in the Spring, someone may have mistaken the tiny seedlings for weeds. They do look like blades of grass when they first shoot up:) (Marion "surprised" me by having the boy across the street visit to pick weeds in the garden while I was gone:) I don't know if you can tell, but these plants are about 3 feet tall. By doing a bit of research, I learned that there are numerous varieties of Celosia. Celosia argentea, commonly known as plumed cockscomb, which is the fiery orange one in this picture, Celosia spicata with its wheat like flower plumes, the one in the forefront and Celosia cockscomb which is the bright red comb shaped flowers toward the back. Pretty amazing huh? I'm going to save the seeds from all of these. Who knows what we'll get next year! BTW, they are GREAT flowers for drying.

Happy Fall, Happy Spring, and Happy Carrot Sunday too:)

Did You Know? The Sunday before Michaelmas, September 29th, is called Carrot Sunday in Scotland.

I'm link this post up with Pam's Garden Tuesday:)