Harvesting

Autumn has begun to ever so subtly make herself known – brushing a leaf here or there with gold or crimson; whispering to the air with crisp breath; casting her spell of ripening sweetness over the garden. Her call,  subtle though it is, gently beckons the spirits of us all to retreat back within, to begin that journey to the very deepest bosom of our being. The feeling is unmistakable, a sense returning to yourself, of coming home.

And so there is such tremendous comfort to fall – especially now when the days have only the merest hint of briskness to them, when the sun still shines brightly and warms your skin. Everywhere one looks there is something to comfort – something to nourish – something to please. But the pleasure is muted and soft, the nourishment of a sweeter and heartier note than that of other seasons. The meadows are seas of lavenders and yellows – goldenrod, asters, the treacherous thorns of brambles concealing luscious plum-colored berries. Everywhere there is the blush of an apple concealed behind a leaf, the vivid orange of a the rowan berries visible deep in the woods. Everywhere there is a harvest.

My own apple trees are providing their own small contribution. It is the first in the three years that we’ve lived here that they’ve produced fruit. The apples are small but delightfully sweet and crisp. Already they’ve filled a pie, been baked into crumbles, filled jars of apple sauce and a batch of garden “glutney” along with other wild apples scavenged from the plethora of trees growing along every road side here in Vermont. I’ve  been wondering what has prompted them after so many years to produce again, and can’t help but fancy that perhaps it was just for us.

Down in the wet and marshy places, the elders have put out their harvest. Those heavy hanging clusters of blue-black berries are a favorite food and medicine of mine (please visit this post to read more), and a day spent in sweet autumn sunshine filling my basket and staining my fingers purple is a day particularly well spent. Aside from my usual batch of elderberry syrup to keep family and friends well through the winter months, they’ve ended up along with my wild apples in a pie and crumble; cooked down into an elderberry ketchup and slow cooked in vinegar with ginger, cloves and black pepper to make an old sauce known as “pontack” that I’m just dying to try (though I’m supposed to age it 7 months first – we’ll see if I can make it).

And for the first time since childhood, I’ve given to playing with the rowan berries again. We had a tremendous rowan (or Mountain Ash is the tree is also known) in the backyard. Many of my days in the late summer were spent gathering berries from that tree, smashing them up in a bowl with leaves and twigs and little bits of grass while my mother watched nervously from the kitchen window. Funny how little we change! Their flavor raw leaves much to be desired, and that is really an understatement. But cooked down with apples, hawthorn berries or other wild fruits of the season (blackberry, rose hip, etc), and a substantial amount of sugar (necessary in this case I assure you), they transform into an absolutely delicious jelly or syrup – especially with a little measure of whiskey added for good taste.

I hope you all are enjoying the harvests of autumn as well – whether from your garden, the wild places, or simply the joys you have harvested from this past season of your life. Enjoy them all, and welcome home.

Comments

  1. Just picked a half dozen buckets of apples from the ancient orchard here (era around 1860, and every tree different apples) yesterday……….the flavor is nothing like what you buy in the shops The windfall I gather from the ground for the ‘wee beasties; (The Highlander Cattle) they adore them………

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Wow, how lucky you are to live in an ancient orchard! It’s one of my many dreams to live in an old orchard someday, so I have to admit I’m just the littlest bit envious :) I bet you have some very interesting varieties indeed, and once you’ve tried some of those rare old apples the supermarket varieties just never can compare. I will enjoy envisioning you surrounded by your apples and lovely wee beasties from now on :)

      XOXO
      D

  2. Lucinda says:

    Glorious thoughts of autumn my dear one! The mornings and evenings have been getting colder here and I’ve been busy batching up autumn syrups and tinctures for the last couple of weeks. It is such an exciting time of year, even though I do feel a wee bit sad that the warm weather is ending.
    Your apples are beautiful, perhaps they were just waiting for someone to appreciate them before they bore fruit again?
    And I must say I’ve never heard of a pontack before… I will investigate your link now :)
    Autumnal abundance and love to you xxx

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Oooh, I bet your shelves are filling up with lovely and delicious things!! I think you are spot on about those apple trees – that’s what I’d like to think too :) I can’t vouch for the pontack yet because it’s all sealed up on the shelf “aging” – but it smelled tremendously good while I made it. The author said she likes to add it to winter stews and gravies which sounds divine. Anyhow, I’m having fun exploring the savory side of elderberries as I’ve never done so before! Hope you get a few more stretches of sunshine and warmth before the chill of autumn sets in for good my dear.

      Lots of love,
      D

  3. Kieron says:

    Lovely, as always. I’ve long believed Spring and Autumn mirror one another with their colors and fleeting textures and shapes, in between the solid greenery of Summer and the bare-ness and barrenness of Winter. Spring and Autumn are the only reasons I live where I do. They’re an antidote to our brutal summers and horrendous winters.

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Your thoughts about spring and autumn are very beautiful to ponder, and I love both seasons as you say for their fleeting splendor and immense beauty. I think they remind me to pay attention and appreciate my surroundings – which I wouldn’t get so much with a less seasonal climate. I hope you enjoy the soft comforts and warm beauty of autumn before winter sets in (but we won’t think too much of that yet…)

      XOXO
      D

  4. Thank you for sharing all the lovely photos:) Your harvest is so lovely, Danielle. I am off to check your links in a moment! That is so coincidental about you harvesting Rowan berries! My brother just asked me last nite what they were, (they were mentioned in a book he was reading), and I told him they were called Mnt. Ash here, and we needed to hunt for one…probably right in front of our faces, as a lot of things are when we first learn about them! lol! I remember hunting for linden… once we met, I am delighted to say that they are almost everywhere I go!! I am teaching the children trees proper names, not just tree, so they know them, and interact with them:) big hugs have a lovely day!! xxxx

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Isn’t that so true of a plant – when one decides to reveal itself than suddenly the whole tree clan steps forward. If you look out for those bright clusters of berries, you won’t miss it…

      D

  5. berlinplants says:

    beautiful post! and your elderberries and rowan berries look delicious :)