Blackberries

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The first nip in the air signals a change of season and the start of the blackberry harvest

The turning of the year as we travel through the seasons was a huge factor in pulling us back to the UK. The recent change in the weather, with its wonderful chilly bright mornings and nippy evenings, has warmed my heart. Whilst the other seasons have their appeal I can’t love them half as much as I love Autumn.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Blackberries

Autumn is our season. The most potent memories of the last ten years with my wife belong to this time of year. It is the season of our wedding, of our first kiss, and of our first meeting. It also marks the onset of a series of celebrations and birthdays stretching all the way to Christmas.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Mollie our Golden Retriever enjoys a foray into the green lanes

I am not a summer child; the sight of me in shorts should be enough to banish any misunderstanding on that matter. Instead, I am happiest in warm jumpers, walking boots, and damp woodland. Days spent walking the dog under a tree canopy are my favourite. Also at this time of year comes the bounty of hedgerow harvests. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

This year I read Alys Fowler’s book on foraging and I’m making an effort to note the harvest when it presents itself. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
A view over the Devon hills

Blackberries

I think the ritual of blackberry collecting, bound up as it is in the season, might be even better than the fresh berries themselves. I’m working my way through a jar of blackberry and apple jam made 3 years ago which I find infinitely more alluring than the fresh berries. September signals the start of hunting season for blackberries.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Not all the berries ripen at the same time

So, with my jumper on for the first time since moving home, we ascend a local hill to find the best berries. Jewel-like berries gleam from the yellowing hedgerow senescence. The bunches of berries carry both mature and immature fruits. The rule of foraging that states you only take a third of the crop you find (the other two-thirds being left for wild animals and someone else) reinforced by the plant itself.

The light prickling on skin reminds you that no harvest comes for free. This only intensifies the sensory experience. You feel like the proverbial child in the sweetshop picking only the choicest fruits between thumb and forefinger. The idea to bring surgical gloves comes to me as I notice the purple staining on my fingertips, as it does every year but is never remembered.

It’s not long before my cheeks are chilled and the light becomes thinner. It’s time to go home.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Blackberry harvest

Chinese Lanterns

www.mypottingbenchblog.com/chinese-lanterns

Chinese Lanterns

I’m really pleased with my Chinese Lanterns. This year I installed some new planters outside the front of the cottage. We decided on rustic animal feeders as they gave the most authentic look at a ridiculously cheap price. The standard planters for sale on the internet were all coming in at over £400 each! I managed to get my 2 feeding troughs for £70 at a local agricultural supply shop. I was looking for plants that could cope with hot and dry conditions at the southern-facing front of the house and saw an opportunity to grow these autumn classics.

 

Plant profile

Latin Name: Physalis alkekengi

Common Names: Chinese Lanterns, winter cherry 

Origin: South Eastern Europe and Asia 

Family: Solanaceae 

Grows: 40-60cm tall 

 

Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) in a large planter
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) in a large planter
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) seedheads. The berries become more obvious as the papery seedhead breaks down.
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) seedheads. The berries become more obvious as the papery seedhead breaks down.
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) seedhead close up. The fine lace webbing on show.
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) seedhead close up. The fine lace webbing on show.

I’ve heard they can be invasive in an open garden but I’ve got them contained so that shouldn’t be a problem. However, I couldn’t resist the fruits hanging in their gorgeous lacy sacks. My propagating fingers started twitching. With the help of the fantastic Real Seeds website I’ve collected, fermented, rinsed and dried the seeds ready for sowing in spring.

How to collect and prepare the seeds

Extract the pulp from the fruits
Extract the pulp from the fruits
Extract the pulp from the fruits
You can see the seeds in the pulp 
Mix with cool clean water
Mix with cool clean water
Sieve the pulp and seed mixture
Sieve the pulp and seed mixture
Place on a flat surface to dry - separate the seeds as much as possible
Place on a flat surface to dry – separate the seeds as much as possible
Leave the plate out to dry before packaging up in some dry seed envelopes
Leave the plate out to dry before packaging up in some dry seed envelopes

I’ll do an update next spring. Only 3 of the seeds floated when being rinsed which suggests there are a good few viable ones in there.