Autumn is most definitely here, with that seasonal contest between stormy showers and bright, slanting sun. As the weather shakes everything up, before the quiet of winter, I find myself busy out there too. During gardening time, I’m mostly getting stuck in to my last few passes of the garden beds, weeding, gently tidying and mulching everything down, so when the winter comes, my garden plants can rest easy. Autumn is perhaps the most pleasurable time of year for weeding. It’s such a relief when weeds don’t seemingly jump immediately back into the beds, the moment you’ve cleared them and turned your back. The frantic pace of summer has given way to a gentler time. The frenetic action of the warmer months has slowed and is now bearing its fruits. As I harvest my succulent tomatoes and earthy roots for warming soups, I find myself also feeding my compost bins with the welcome weed harvest and simultaneously taking stocks of last year’s compost, now a rich, crumbly brown, to mulch and nourish my plants. We are all taking this time to enjoy the work of the year, to feed and be fed.
This year, top harvests for me include my beautiful carrots, my drying beans – a variety called Gigantes - which certainly live up to their name and have been such a pleasure to pod and set aside to dry. It’s also been the best year yet for my very slow growing Szechuan Pepper (Zanthoxylum piperitum). This year there have been enough flowers on this tree that I’ll be gathering its crimson seed pods (see below) for the very first time, so I can have a go at drying and using them as a home-grown black pepper substitute. Fingers crossed it’s been worth the wait!