|Ink Cap toadstools - possibly! |
Not sure but I definitely won't be eating them!
Out of the rain to shelter himself.
Under the toadstool, sound asleep,
Sat a big Dormouse all in a heap.
Trembled the wee Elf, frightened and yet
Fearing to fly away lest he get wet.
To the next shelter—maybe a mile!
Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile.
Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two.
Holding it over him, gaily he flew.
Soon he was safe home, dry as could be.
Soon woke the Dormouse —"Good gracious me!
"Where is my toadstool?" loud he lamented.
— And that's how umbrellas first were invented.
Oliver Herford, 1863–1935
If there are elves or fairies at the bottom of the garden, then I suspect the foxes have got them. Sadly, what I do have at the moment is a fine crop of toadstools. Bah!
This year, British farmers have been truly beaten by the weather. It has rained when the sun was supposed to shine, and the sun shone when we we were barely emerging from winter. It has truly been a topsy-turvey year and has cost our farmers dearly as nothing has grown the way it should have done, nor has it been harvested to plan. I remember back in July thinking that I might need to build my own ark. It seems from recent weather reports that this winter is going to be a very wet one. I am stockpiling wood as I type. Now, if I can just find those nails . . . we'll definitely be needing umbrellas this season (although perhaps not toadstools!)
Sadly, my favourite tender vegetable crops are disappearing as the first frosts appear in November, but it is not all doom and gloom. This is a good month for hardier vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, leeks, parsnips, potatoes and sprouts as well as traditional British fruits such as apples and pears. And keep an eye out for my favourite quinces. Not only do they taste good (in cakes and crumbles or as an accompaniment to game, lamb and pork), but uncooked, their fragrance will actually imbue your house with enticing fruit aromas.
Now is the time to start searching out game, the season of which is now in full swing. Actually sourcing game should actually be easier for us city dwellers, since supermarkets such as Budgens and Marks&Spencers have started selling it; (as a result of a change in the law. Hurrah!) Although while I may be looking for partridge, pheasant and pigeon, I think I may have to draw a line at squirrel! Remember that wild game in particular is low in fat and high in protein. If you're feeling squeamish about fluffy animals being killed in the wild, well in many cases, for example with herds of deer, the herd needs to be kept to a particular size to maintain the health of all the deer. It's a case of culling to be kind. So why not benefit for this, rather than letting it go to waste? Besides, it tastes good too.
This is the time of year that I start making my favourite winter warming soups - mushroom, celeriac and blue cheese, and pumpkin. A hearty beef and ale stew or a soothing but spicy curry won't go amiss either.
And before I forget, the last Sunday before Advent is "Stir-up Sunday" - the traditional time to make your Christmas mincmeat, pudding and Christmas cake. This year, it is on 25th November and there is a good mincemeat recipe here.
vegetables, herbs and wild greens:
artichokes (globe), artichokes (Jerusalem), beetroot, borlotti beans (for podding), broccoli (calabrese), Brussels sprouts, Brussels tops, cabbages (various green varieties, red and white), cardoons, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, chicory, endive, greens (spring and winter), leeks, lettuce, nettles, onions, oyster mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins (and squashes), salsify, swede, turnips, watercress, wood blewits
fruit and nuts:
apples, chestnuts, cranberries, hazelnuts, medlars, pears, quinces, raspberries, rosehips, sloes, walnuts
meat and game:
beef, chicken, goose (wild), grouse, hare, mallard, mutton, partridge, pheasant, pork, rabbit, turkey, wood pigeon
fish and shellfish:
cockles, cod, crab (brown and hen), hake, herring, lobster, mackerel, mussels, oysters (native and rock), prawns, scallops, sea bass, shrimp, sprats, squid, whiting