Unlike many ‘of the moment’ seasonal reports and newsy snippets that appear in the media around this time of year, this blog post is truly ‘live’, though somewhat late for Christmas Day. The intention was to have prepared words and pictures during a week that subsequently escaped me (pre-Christmas), and then all I had to do was just hit the ‘post’ button this morning. But that was before the ‘blog lady from Devon via the Cotswolds’ was struck down with some sort of incapacitating virus. You can work through some, but not others. Doubly infuriating, as the exceptionally mild days this last week were perfect for being out in the garden, ahead of new year resolutions. But I digress from my previously chosen topic. Fruit. Trees and bushes to order and plant in the next month or so. They add that extra dimension to any productive garden, augment the eco-value (surplus for birds – and birds eat unwanted grubs and insects), and – as I discovered from the leaflet supplied with one of my orders from the Dobies website – any fruit has the capacity to be turned into alcohol. Very Christmassy!
Eat fruit fresh, press it for juice, ferment it, even (illicitly) distill it. Fruit: straight from the bush or tree, or turned into syrups, pies, tarts, jam, jelly, alcohol or whatever you wish. So, on the alcoholic front, think apples (cider), pears (perry), cherries (soak in white rum for a distinctive liqueur), blackcurrants or the more modern fourberry juiced and added to spirits as a medicinal for sore throats. Almost any fruit can be made into wine, which, in our experience is far easier (we still have a bottle of our 1969 apple and blackberry awaiting some special evening). A little light reading over the new year for fans of Joanne Harris might be her ‘Blackberry Wine‘, first published in 2000. Clever and intriguing.
The Dobies leaflet I have beside me as I write introduces the Mirabelle de Nancy, reminiscent of summer visits to France and a breakfast preserve so liquid it would have been better to drink it than eat it with croissants. The Mirabelle is a small, plum-like fruit that has been widely cultivated in France since the 15th century. Enjoy it in pies or other desserts, as jam, or – more traditionally, made into plum brandy.
And why not plant an alcoholic wildlife hedge? Dobies ‘Hedgerow Collection’ (ref 44 70 97) is perfect actually for creating a boundary around your plot or any gardening group’s allotment. Comprising native hedgerow plants, you’ll be helping the environment by planting native species, and benefiting pollinating insects and birds that come late autumn will consume all that you have not harvested. The collection comprises 3 hazel bushes, 1 crab apple, 1 cherry plum and 5 blackthorn – the blue-black sloes form the basis of sloe gin. (An online link to the lovely ‘Hedgerow Collection’ will follow next week, as the gremlins have struck again. So sorry.) Meanwhile, enjoy what is left of Christmas Day; I’m off downstairs for a little cold turkey and a touch of sage and onion stuffing. (This is intended to be a lighthearted holiday post, so my apologies to those readers for whom alcohol is a no-no.)