Monday, 9 September 2013

Not Until The Fat Lady Sings

I struggle with September, for me summer doesn't end until SD brings out the longer shorts and that won't be for another month or so but the shops are full of winter woolies and its damp and grey in my garden this morning.

My tomato plants are still laden with unripened fruit as the later varieties still need another week or so of sunshine before  the stripy egg shaped tomatoes turn from green to deep red.  The tiny, early red cherry tomatoes are almost over and in the past week I've been picking their small yellow cousins that burst in your mouth with an explosion of flavour.  I'm also cultivating a solitary chocolate tomato plant, the first time I've grown these and I'm fascinated as I watch them turn from a pale apple green to a rich chocolaty brown.

Other than picking them straight from the bush and eating them warm from the sun my favorite way to eat these juicy red globes is slow roasted with green, red and yellow peppers, chunks of red onion, slices of courgette, dotted with slivers of garlic intercepted with bay leaves picked from my tree and smothered in olive oil, black pepper and flakes of sea salt.

I'll happily eat them like this or as an accompaniment to a meal, mix it with pasta or cous cous or blend it into a thick soup.  It tastes like nothing you can buy in a shop and, if I feel the urge, I'll even bake my own bread to go with it.

I've had a great weekend, Saturday was an odd mix.  The forecast for here was sunshine and showers and yet, just a few miles down the coast it was set to be a beautiful day.  SD and I headed for the coast.  Blue anchor sounds far prettier than it is in real life.  In reality its a stony stretch of seafront looking out towards Wales and, in the distance, Hinckley Point nuclear power station.  On the surface its pretty unreposing.  But, if you look a little closer it does have some redeeming features.

There's a tiny train station where several times a day the steam train stops on its way between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard.  There are rock pools teaming with life and there is an abundance of fresh sea air and escape.

There's also the best little cafe, the Driftwood, set at the top of a pretty tiered garden where you can sit in the sun surrounded by lavender and roses or, if its less warm, take your coffee on the sheltered veranda as you watch the fishermen cast their lines along the promenade and ships sail past in the distance.

An hour or two is the most I spare Blue Anchor before heading further along the coast to Minehead. 

Again, at first glance Minehead is pretty unreposing too unless you have a soft spot for amusement arcades or fancy a holiday at butlins holiday camp.  Neither of these float my boat but, if you take the time to walk in the opposite direction then you come to the old part of town with a pretty eclectic mix of houses and a small harbour.  There's also good shopping to be found in Minehead with small independant shops and a bustling market.  Oh, and you can buy the most amazing icecreams from a converted tram next to the train station, my choice on Saturday was stem ginger and clotted cream but it was a tough call when they were also offering blackberry and double cream.  We pottered around for a couple of hours, ate our icecreams on the sea wall and generally had a great day busy doing nothing.

Which meant that yesterday was a day for jobs.

Some jobs I really don't mind. Strangely, I love changing beds, I love the smell of fresh linen and the undented freshness of freshly plumped pillows.  I like cleaning the bathroom and setting out piles of clean fluffy towels and I like polishing mirrors.  Mostly I think housework is crap, boring and repetitive, a necessary evil that stands in the way of good times ;-).

Yesterday was also designated plum picking day!

We've been watching the plums at the farm waiting for the perfect day to pick them.  The plum tree is very old and the branches hang over the roof of the barn dripping with ripe purple fruit.

Plums may be my very favorite fruit of all time although I probably say the same about strawberries and raspberries oh, and rhubarb when they are in season and I'd struggle to choose between blackberries and plums.  I guess they can ALL be my favorites can't they?

The plums come right at the end of the growing season along with the blackberries and bramleys (how bloody clever is mother nature  coordinating those two?) and the runner beans, also a favorite in this house.  When the strawberries and raspberries are just a distant memory along come these perfect, juicy, sweet fruits bursting with flavor in a luscious deep purple.

Picking them's a real bugger though!

Not only do you have wasps to contend with but the best of the plums are high above your head 20ft up an ancient half dead tree.

Obviously I send SD up the ladder on the grounds that he probably bounces better than me (as yet fortunately unproven) with a bucket while I stand on the ladder and issue instructions from below.

I'm not actually sure its any safer at the bottom of the ladder as I'm bombarded with fruit as it falls from the tree.  I'm also constantly terrified that SD will lean too far from the ladder in his quest to pick the lushest fruit and go hurling to the ground taking me out as he passes leaving us both in a bloodied, tangled mess of mangled pulp and flesh on the ground below but apparently pointing that out to him at 30 second intervals isn't very helpful ...

It's worth it though.  After an hour's picking we ended up with these and my house is, as I type, filled with the amazingly rich smell of stewing plums ready to be turned into crumbles, pies and jam.  All I need to do now is make sure I pick out all the bloody stones!

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