The joy of seasonal eating
Autumn is totally scrumptious, do you agree? We absolutely adore it as it's one of the best times for eating seasonally in the UK. So even if the weather is being a bit soggy and unpredictable, all the delicious varieties of autumn fruit and veg are putting a spring in our step and a smile on our Chevy Chase.
Have you ever tasted your way through the weeks from September till December? It’s a delight, I tell you, Start with discovery apples and sweetcorn in late August-early September then move deliciously on to organic squash and kale.
Abel & Cole is a riot of colour and sustainably seasonal fantasticness and it starts with apples.
Apple trees grown from seed don't bear any resemblance to the parent tree, so in order to grow edible fruit, trees need us fructose-addicted humans to graft varieties together.
Here's the science. Grafting involves cutting all the branches off a 'standing' tree and sticking little bits of another variety into the bark. This gives us a new variety. If you just leave a seedling apple tree to fruit, the apples will likely be good for cider or pigs and nowt else.
This grafting means that we could have a different apple variety to eat every day. But domestication of apples has meant that in most places, only a handful of types are grown. All together now, let's name them: granny smith, braeburn, gala, cox… how many does your local supermarket stock?
The unassuming apple has been a core part of the English diet for centuries yet since 1950s over half of our English orchards have been abandoned, as cheaper imported apples played cuckoo and ousted British fruit from the shop shelves.
Do you know that we could grow over 2,000 varieties of apples on this confuddled little island? We've always championed organic farmers who stand by their traditional (if unfashionable) fruit and veg.
At Mole End Farm in Kent, Paul and Sara Ward have been growing organic apples for over twenty years and we've been working with them for at least half of that. Paul gets a but misty eyed about autumn, "I love the light levels, the low sun over the hedges in the early morning. Farming can be extremely rewarding." Aw, what a romantic.
This year we've got nearly 20 apple varieties starting with Discovery and Scrumptios and ending with Ergremont Russet and Bramley at the end of winter.
With names like Falsaff, Blaze and Smitten, you'd think we're putting on some kind of avant-garde theatre piece instead of filling organic fruit and veg boxes.
Here's the roll call for any true fruit-heads out there; Gala, Russet, Blaze (winner of the tastiest apple in the national fruit show competition), Lord Lambourne, Cox Royale, Cox Orange Pippin, Spartan, Red Pippin, Worcester Pearmain, Windsor, Evita (Red Topaz), Crimson Crisp, Autumn Red, Rakja, Braeburn, Falstaff, Smitten, Bramley.
Enough of dem apples, over to the most roastable veg in the country, Squash!
Clive Martin, god of the fens, lord of the squash and crown prince of squash has a brand new squash variety for you this year. Put your hands together for Blaze. The new organic kid on the chopping block. It's like a crown prince (the duck egg blue one with melon-orange flesh) but with very decorative orange and white skin. They're beautiful. Nature was really paying attention for that module at art school.
Not sure what to do with your squash? Find tips and inspiration here and here.
The squash line up this year goes like this; Gem, Red Onion (the best for hallowe'en carving as it's got the softest skin), Spaghetti squash, Crown Prince, Butternut, Turks Turban, Blaze, Delicata.
The joy of the UK apple and squash season shows the variety and pleasure of seasonal eating. As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, just open your veg box for a dose of sunshine and delight.