Writing at the autumn equinox, as the nights become longer than the days, seems appropriate timing as we also move into a new stage of covid related restrictions. There is a definite ‘end of term’ feel at the farm at this time of year. Our busiest time of year is drawing to a close as our major summer crop, spring onions, begins to wind down. The last students who have been with us through their summer holidays head off to uni or college and our seasonal overseas staff start thinking about home. We always seem to get a quick blast of late sunshine in September and the crops look great but inevitably the weather turns and catches up with us.
A perpetual frustration is that we could carry on growing spring onions for longer, my old man often tells me they used to fetch good prices in the run up to Christmas! Nowadays though, our season is brought to a halt, not just by the weather, but by the arrival of cheap competition from air-freight and sea-freight spring onions from Egypt. I find it somewhat amusing that they are marketed as ‘fresh’ when they can sometimes have spent 10 days at sea and another week in the system before making it onto supermarket shelves.
As we move into October, we move into ‘proper’ apple season. The few early varieties are now finishing, and we can enjoy favourites like Cox and soon the amazing Opal we grow here on the farm.
We will have a few Bramleys if you like an old-school baked apple, but if you like cooking with apples there is no substitute to Braeburn. You don’t need to add as much sugar as when cooking with Bramleys because they are naturally sweeter and they hold their shape and texture much better. Perfect for an apple tarte tatin, finished with a splash of our Reliquum Apple Brandy and some more stirred into a whipped cream. In fact, besides the beautiful skies and wild mushrooms, one of the best things about winter for me is I can get stuck into my winter reading list with glass of Apple Brandy next to me. First up is ‘Sitopia by Carolyn Steel’ which is an important read for anyone passionate about food.
On a positive note we got to see a pair of Turtle Doves again before they headed south on their migration; we hope they return to breed next year!
We continue to expand our offer including our next guest producer, my friend and inspiration, the fantastic Jekka McVicar. Her delicious Herbal Infusions and cookery books will be making their appearance on our website very soon. Jekka is behind the education of many well-known chefs in the world of herbs, not least that other Essex boy, Jamie Oliver.
The herbs we grow here were raised by Jekka and her teas are delicious; a pot of the Eastern Promise has been ever present in our kitchen since she created it to help a friend in poor health. Please give them a try and the internationally best-selling herb guide is a brilliant addition to any gardener, chef or wellbeing enthusiast’s book shelf.