Autumn Reflections

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

Summer passed in a speedy haze and with autumn’s palate well on its way, our attention in the herb garden has already turned to preparing the beds for winter. 

Working on the land, we are confronted with the cycle of the seasons, the growth and decay of life in its raw state, and medicinal herbs can especially attune our minds and bodies to that which nature provides. 

The arduous spring preparation in the herb garden thankfully paid off. New beds were sown, planted and mulched. Some beds were under sown with green manures to suppress weeds, protect soil from the summer sun, improve soil structure and increase organic matter. Any unused beds were sown similarly with buckwheat, phacelia, clovers and radish which gave the garden an added buzz of vitality and colour much to the delight of our insects.

The effect of the green manure meant that we were not delayed in peak summer by weeding; the herbs wanted nothing else but to grow and flourish so all our energy could be put into harvesting and drying. And harvest we did! As I write we are on our 127th herb harvest, all being used in our tea blends, natural beauty products and medicinal remedies, tinctures, and glycerites.

This year has been one of the Hawthorn. Spring’s blossom was exceptionally beautiful and abundant. As we harvested blossom and leaf, a powerful remedy of the heart and circulation, I was reminded to take care and show myself some love over the coming busy months. Indeed, when the chamomile harvest came, it was a time to recall this. Labour intensive, fiddly and with so much to pick, I dreamt I could become a Hindu deity with a multiplicity of arms to get the job done speedily. Thankfully with a constant stream of helpful wwoofers and attendees on Anne McIntyre’s Herbal Medicine course, the pressure was lifted and the job became lighthearted; a reminder that herbs are a great way of slowing down and connecting with others.

Now we have captured the sun’s energy in the summer herbs, we are collecting all the nourishing and strengthening autumn herbs and berries. Just as we prepare the garden for winter, so too must we prepare our internal bodies for the darker light and change of season. With a mass of hips and berries we will be in good stead. Again, the Hawthorn has been a star. The plump haws dot the landscape and are a joy to pick. With all our political uncertainty and unsettling climate worries, this year’s landscape seems to be telling us through the Hawthorn to keep attuned to our heart and connect with others; with nature as our guide I find some hope in this. I have felt extremely fortunate to participate in this land’s abundance and I’m reminded that whatever we seek, nature can truly provide.

Fiona has been nurturing the herb garden and building enviable compost heaps at Trill Farm since March. A woman of many talents, she previously ran a successful organic veg box scheme on her native Guernsey, is an award-winning scyther and occasional spoon carver. 

Autumn Preservation

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

The Summer excites us. The garden shares its bounty and we can barely keep up with cooking and eating all the delicious herbs, salads, fruit and vegetables harvested in June, July and August. By preserving what we can, we are able to retain the essence and flavours of Summer to stock our larder and share in the darker, colder months.

Eating what we preserve allows us sensory access to a memory. Opening the lid on a jar of preserved tomatoes transports us back to that incredible day in August, when the fruit was warm and ripe and the sun was high. The flavour of that captured time keeps us going and makes our dishes exciting long after the beds have been emptied and turned over, the rotting vines adding to the rich compost.

Preserving means that the garden remains our muse year-round. When the produce is fresh, it fills our fridges, sinks and countertops, but when there is less to harvest, we are always happy to reach for it on our shelves, in jars, bottles and vessels, opening containers of sunny times in the greyer months.

SALAD OF PICKLED PLUMS, LABNEH, HONEY AND TARRAGON

Serves 4

12 ripe plums, halved and destoned
200g labneh (recipe below)
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
4 tbsp fruity vinegar (recipe below)
1 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste
200ml olive oil
2 handfuls of mixed salad leaves or other garnishes of your choice

For the fruit vinegar
500g soft fruit of choice, plums, black currants, raspberries, etc.
1l white or cider vinegar
100g of sugar, depending on fruit

Gently combine the fruit and pour into a sterilized tub or Kilner jar and seal. Allow to macerate for three weeks, stirring occasionally. Drain off the vinegar and use for dressing, shrubs, sauce, etc. This vinegar will last for a long time but will lose its fruitiness a little.

For the labneh
500ml yoghurt
½ tsp salt

Combine salt and the yoghurt and mix well. Line a sieve with a thin cloth or muslin. Transfer the yoghurt mixture to the sieve and place a bowl underneath to catch the whey. Leave in the fridge overnight to drain. By morning you should have a firm, tangy lump of fresh labneh.

To assemble the salad
Heat a frying pan and dry fry the halved plums for a few moments to get a slight char on them.

Meanwhile in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, combine the tarragon, vinegar, a little salt and pepper and olive oil to make the marinade.

Once the plums are toasted, tip them into the marinade and toss them to coat. Allow to marinate for a couple of hours at least.

Plate the dish as you like, with the labneh and garnish and serve with crusty bread, roast veg or it works very well with pigeon or venison.

Chris Onions runs the Old Dairy Kitchen. He caters for all our events, courses and farm lunches, hosts monthly feast nights, and teaches his own range of courses. olddairykitchen.co.uk

An Apple a Day

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

As summer comes to an end and the mornings are wet with dew, the apples trees in the orchard hang heavy with laden branches of red, pink, green, and even purple fruit.

The apple orchard here at Trill Farm was planted back in 2008 with 19 different varieties of apple. Some, like the Discovery and Beauty of Bath, with its bright pink skin and pink-stained flesh, are early eaters and have been ready since August. Others, like the small, sweet Winston, will not be ready until November and will last throughout the winter.

There are thought to be as many as 3000 different varieties of apple in the UK alone; certainly enough that you could eat a different apple with your lunch every day for at least 6 years. Historically, landowners, farmers and smallholders would develop their own local varieties, for eating, cooking or making cider, and care for them in small orchards with careful pruning. Since the end of the Second World War, many orchards have been lost through neglect or removal for pasture or building, and with them, the apple varieties that grew there. 

One of the reasons that heritage varieties are easily lost is that they cannot be regrown from an apple pip. Apple blossom can be pollinated by bees visiting a range of different trees, so the seeds have a different genetic mix to the trees the fruit grow on. Excitingly, this means that anyone can grow a new apple variety in their own garden, but there is no knowing if it will produce a deliciously sweet fruit, or a small and bitter one.

For an apple variety to be regrown with identical genetics (and therefore fruit), a small branch or twig (scion) from the tree needs to be skilfully grafted on to a new rootstock. The twig fuses to the rootstock and grows into a new tree, from which many other scions can be taken and regrown. In this way, a single tree can be multiplied many thousands of times and be growing (in part) all over the world.

For example, every Bramley tree comes originally from a single tree in a garden in Nottinghamshire, grown from a pip by a young woman around 200 years ago. It is likely that the pip came from another apple tree growing in the garden, and was a chance crossing that turned out to produce an exceptional apple, with the Bramley industry now worth £50m.

As for our own apples, as well as enjoying apples with breakfast, lunch and dinner, we preserve as many as we can peel and chop as compote to serve in the B&B throughout the winter, and press everything that remains by the end of October to make our own apple juice and apple cider vinegar, both available in our shop

If you would like to visit our orchards and learn how to prune and graft your own fruit trees, we will be running another of our popular Pruning and Grafting courses in February.

Mariel runs the farm office. She has a background in conservation and environmental education and is passionate about encouraging everyone to connect with the nature around them.

Seven Flavours of Autumn

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

Blackberries

Blackberries must be the best known wild-gathered berry. Of course, there are plenty of cultivated ones now available, but there is a far greater sense of satisfaction if you pick your own in the dappled autumn sun and return home with stained hands and lips. Blackberries are a good source of Vitamin C and provide a fair amount of iron. The blackberry leaf and root are powerful astringents and the berries are used to treat diarrhoea and anaemia.

Figs

Figs originated in Southwest Asia, and they now grow throughout the Mediterranean and surprisingly well in Britain. The medicinal use of figs is almost as ancient as the plant itself. For centuries, figs have been recommended to restore energy and vitality. Pliny wrote, ‘Figs are restorative and the best food that can be taken by those who are brought low by a long sickness’. They can be turned into a variety of dishes, but frankly they are delicious just the way they are.

Elderberry

Elderberries are another autumn fruit dripping from the tree to gather by the basket. Elderberry vinegar added to warm water makes a delicious healthy winter drink. They strengthen the immune system and reduce the severity and duration of colds and flu. Elderberries are a rich source of Vitamins A, B and C, potassium and antioxidants. Some research suggests they may be better than blueberries at fighting free radicals.

Fennel seed

Fennel seeds are one of the nine sacred Anglo Saxon herbs symbolising longevity, courage and strength. I love the fresh green seeds before they are dried; they add an aromatic burst of flavour to food. Fennel seeds are a potent medicine containing loads of minerals and vitamins including copper, iron, zinc, calcium and Vitamins A, E and C plus B complex. They have long been used as a remedy for indigestion and relief of colic pain in newborn babies.

Apple

Fresh-picked apples are one of the evocative smells of autumn. Many apples, kept in a dry room, will keep into the following year. Apples are packed with disease-fighting vitamins and antioxidants. Juicing apples from time to time is fine, but eating them in their whole form will give you a synergistic blend of nutrients and fibre the way nature intended, providing you with well-researched health benefits.

Pumpkin

There are many different varieties of pumpkins; some are tiny and nestle in the palm of your hand, others are too big to move single-handed. Halloween jack-o’-lanterns make pumpkins synonymous with autumn. All the scooped-out flesh can be turned into endless dishes, from soups and risotto to muffins and pies. The fruit is a good source of Vitamin B complex as well as many antioxidant vitamins such as A, C and E. Pumpkin is also a rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorous.

Rosehip

Like jewels, rosehips cascade down the bushes in the autumn. These oval, red fruits of wild roses have long been used as food and medicine. Turn them into chutneys, jams, syrups, vinegars, wine and teas. Rosehip tea was traditionally used for the common cold and locally for inflamed or bleeding gums. During the Second World War, many tonnes of rosehips were turned into syrup to provide Vitamin C.

Extract from ‘Living Food: A Feast for Soil & Soul’ by Daphne Lambert, published by Unbound, 2016

Daphne Lambert is a founding member of Greencuisine Trust, an educational charity that engages with individuals, organisations and communities in order to rethink food. Daphne teaches seasonal Living Nutrition weekend courses at Trill Farm. 

Visit the course page to find out more about Living Nutrition Courses run by Daphne.

Preserving the Harvest

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

This Autumn we’re thinking about preserving, in all its aspects. As I write, Daphne is preparing the living nutrition course and this weekend we’ll be gathering the fruits to make preserves for the winter. As well as the sourdough rye bread that we make, we can take home these jars and bottles to enjoy when the fruits are no longer around in the hedgerows.

At the farm we are also bottling, freezing and putting into store many of the vegetables and fruits of the farm, hoping they turn into something delicious and nutritious to enjoy eating when there is very little growing outside.

Preserving is fun; it feels good to do, and there’s a sense that you’re preparing but don’t know what for. But I also know it is at a time of transition: moving on. So much better to move on at the right time, when there’s been some preparation. Meeting the times ahead when we don’t know what to expect can be daunting. I’m definitely hopeful for the future even though it seems impossible at times. But I reckon Trill Farm is a good example of hope: healthy food, healthy soil and a community that understands the importance of passing on the information and skills we might all need. Even preserving.

- Romy

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