There have been several comments this week from family and friends in Britain that it is ‘feeling autumnal’ and thoughts are turning to putting the heating on and reaching for comfort food recipes. It’s certainly looking like autumn in places here, too. There is a subtle turning of the leaves, a haze of yellows, oranges and browns drifting through the deciduous woods in the same way the soft green fuzz of new growth does in spring.
A huge benefit for us, though, is that light levels may be falling along with the leaves but the temperature stays up. We are still enjoying temperatures in the twenties during the day and mid- teens at night; our windows are open day and night and when (from necessity in the face of a broken electric oven) we lit the Beast, we ended up cooking ourselves as well as dinner! There is a simple equation that, even after living here for 16 months, I still find hard to grasp: cloud plus gloom plus rain does not mean cold weather. It might be damp and grey but it’s still warm enough for shorts and living outside. It’s one of the (many) things I love about Asturias.
No excuse, then, for not heading out for some walks to see what nature is up to. Ah, yes more evidence of autumn . . . and several not-so-subtle reminders of how dangerous it is to walk under the chestnut trees at this time of year. Ouch!
In contrast to the woodlands, the roadside verges are still blooming with a mass of colourful flowers: heather, gorse, knapweed, hypericum, wild carrot, scabious, red clover . . . all pretty as a picture and buzzing with insects.
Plenty of colour in the garden, too. Now I know that I have already included several photos of the morning glory in previous posts but I just can’t help adding a few more as I am SOOOOOO delighted with them. I have tried for years to grow them with only partial success and much frustration; it seems I just needed to be in the right place because a few seeds casually thrown in very late have turned into plants of great enthusiasm and beauty. They are making a grand job of covering the veg patch fence, scrambling through old sweet pea tripods and wrapping themselves round sunflower stalks as they go. What has really thrilled me is that this week the very deep indigo colour so typical of wild plants here as appeared. Stunning.
Also beautiful are the dahlias grown from seed. They have certainly been one of the big success stories of the year and seem to go on and on. I was tempted to pick a bunch for the house but practically every one was housing a foraging bee of some kind so I decided to leave them where they can be enjoyed by all. Couldn’t resist a snap of this gorgeous claret number, though. Hide my wool, please – I’m itching to make something this colour!
I’m not a huge fan of hydrangeas but they are very typical of Asturias and ours are flowering extremely late, possibly as a result of the rather savage pruning I gave them in the spring. I wish we had the deep magenta and purple varieties, those I will admit to liking. Ours are all white and pale blue, a bit insipid to my mind, but that said, on close inspection they do have a rather delicate beauty.
Going back to the subject of bees for a moment: having spent several weeks feasting on rotten peaches, the honey bees have now turned their attention to fallen figs. I still find this behaviour fascinating and love to watch them tucking in.
At the food end of things, a mild autumn means we can carry on happily growing crops outside without any danger of frost. Things are slowing down a bit of course, but we are still picking peppers, aubergines and courgettes – the latter having now left the garden and started off down the lane.
There are plenty of ‘new’ foods, too. Earthed up, the Florence fennel is fattening into some lovely plump bulbs.
The canellini beans, specially bred for a very late harvest, are doing what all beans seem to do here naturally – growing like stink.
As well as komatsuna and golden pak choi, we have a good crop of spinach; forget lettuce, these are our multi-purpose salad-cum-cooking leaves of the moment.
We haven’t grown sweet corn for years, and even when we did it was always a touch and go crop in the polytunnel. My oh my, are we enjoying this harvest! The secret is to get the cobs from plant to plate in a matter of minutes while the sugar content is high. Flame-grilled or barbecued over wood is our favourite cooking method – a great tip we picked up from street vendors when we lived in Cyprus – then smeared in butter and eaten in fingers straight from the cob. The contrasting sweet and salty flavours are sublime: think sea salt and caramel, bacon and maple syrup . . . surely such simple, priceless pleasure is why growing vegetables is such an amazing thing to do! 🙂