Harvest time already

Is it just me or is autumn upon us rather early this year? Already the apples are falling off the trees and we were busy in the orchard today gathering up all the windfalls. If the weather hadn’t been so warm it could have been October.

The top quality, blemish free ones will be stored, hopefully in the peak of condition until Apple Day on 22nd October (make sure you have it in your diary).

The next grade may have the odd mark or two or a bruise or bump as they hit the ground but are perfectly useable and we put these out for the public to take home. We just ask for a donation towards upkeep of the orchard.

The duds, those affected by brown rot, eaten by wasps or too tiny to eat, are tossed into the wheelbarrow and taken up to the fire site where they can be feasted on by birds, mammals and insects.

We came across another new fungus as we were collecting up all the apples.

This one is called a Tawny funnel fungus (Clitocybe gibba) and it commonly grows in leaf litter in deciduous woodland and rough grass or heaths. Very common throughout Britain and Ireland, the Common Funnel also occurs in most parts of mainland Europe and in North America. It is described as a ‘gregarious’ fungi because it often occurs in groups. All sorts of interesting information about the identification, distribution and uses of this fungus can be found on the First Nature website if you care to take a look.

The harvest is also going strong in the community garden, with an ever abundant looking stall on display every Tuesday. We need more visitors to use up the glut – anyone know what to do with a tonne of courgettes going on marrows? Please remember to drop in on a Tuesday if you are passing and see what we have.

Keeping watch over us all was our jolly new mascot with a veg stall to rival ours!

Somebody’s got nimble fingers! Thanks to Pete’s mum for this masterpiece. More of her knitted goods can be purchased in the Visitor Centre, including a Knight’s Templar in full battle attire.

One of the less usual things we have for sale is the patti pan squash or flat white custard marrow, which was grown in Tudor times. When small it can be used just like a courgette. Once it has grown large it is better stuffed and baked. See a recipe at the end of the blog, sent in by one satisfied customer this week.

Not to be left out of this productive week, our bees have produced enough honey for us to do a second extraction, so another 50kgs is heading for jam jars and will be out for sale by Apple Day. They would make a marvellous Christmas gift for those of you who like to think about such things at the end of August!

The liquid gold pouring through the strainer into the bucket below.

More news of our bees and their honey. We are entering some of this year’s honey into the The Essex Honey Show which will be taking place at the Orsett Agricultural Show, Orsett Showground, near Grays Thurrock,  Essex, RM16 3JU on Saturday 2nd September 9am – 5pm. The Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens has entered two honey classes:

Class 2 – One jar of clear honey – Gift Class. The Honey will be sold in aid of St Francic Hospice.

Class 17 – Two jars of medium clear honey – for beekeepers of 5 years’ or less beekeeping experience.

So, let’s see if we can scoop our first honey award. Fingers crossed.

If you fancy going along to the show the entry fee is £10. And a huge thank you to Jan French and David Andrews, our beekeepers, who put in many hours of dedication to look after our bees and process our honey. If anyone fancies learning about beekeeping and has a little time to spare, Jan is a great teacher and would love to have a beekeeping group at Cressing. Contact Rebecca if you are interested (rebecca.ashbey@essex.gov.uk)

In the walled garden, guess what, we were doing lots of weeding again. One minute we are saying thank goodness for a bit of welcome rain, the next minute we are cursing the weeds. Never satisfied some would say!

Jane tackles one of the culinary herb beds. The strange frilly looking thing at the end of the bed is French mallow (Malva verticillata) an annual herb used in sallets in tudor times.

Deadheading, cutting back and mulching are other useful tasks for this time of year, keeping everything looking neat and tidy as the garden gently slides into autumn.

Lynn is applying mulch to a bed of marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), Veronica (Veronica spicata) and chicory (Chicorum intybus).

Friends of Cressing Gardens are now the proud owners of three new benches for the walled garden, made especially for us by Stephen Westover of Westover Woodlands, Gosfield. They are lovely pieces of craftsmanship and will provide extra places for relaxation and contemplation in the garden. Stephen will be attending this year’s Apple Day, so if you like what you see, don’t miss him at our event.

Roses are such versatile plants. Some are all done with their flowering by now and have already launched into their autumn show of hips. One such rose is the wild dog rose, Rosa canina, seen here on our rose arbour.

Others are late starters, are only just getting into their flowering swing now, like the lovely sweet scented Rosa moschata, looking delicate and pretty on our arbour right now.

This is a very old rose, in cultivation at least as long ago as the 16th century. Its wonderful musky scent and useful characteristic of late season and long flowering has lead to it being used for breeding other roses, such as the damask roses  and the noisette roses. I love the simplicity of these flowers, and so do the bees, as the nectar and pollen is much more accessible than in our multi-petalled modern roses.

As promised, here is the squash recipe.

Patti pan a la Cressing

Stuffed patti pan per Person:

1 round patti pan squash

1 raw pork sausage skinned and chopped (or veg sausage)

1 heaped teaspoon finely chopped onion

1 heaped teaspoon finely chopped celery

pinch dried mixed herbs

Tomato and pepper sauce:

1 finely chopped onion (minus onion used in squash stuffing)

1 finely chopped pepper

1 finely chopped stick of celery

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 finely chopped fresh chilli (optional)

1 clove finely chopped garlic

Vegetable stock cube

Half teaspoon mixed dried herbs


Earlier in the day bake the squash(s) in the oven in about an inch of water for 30 – 40 minutes at 200ºc until just soft and leave to cool. Once cool, cut round just inside the outer rim so you have a “lid” and remove all the pips with a teaspoon.

Sauce: gently fry the fresh veg with chilli and garlic until soft, then add tomatoes and stock cube and simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stuffing: fry the reserved onion and celery until soft, then add chopped sausage and cook, stirring frequently so sausage breaks up a bit more. Cook until sausage is all cooked through.

Assembly: fill squash with stuffing mixture and put the “lid” on. Put about half an inch of tomato sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish that is just a little bit bigger than the squash to be cooked. Place the squash(s) on top and bake for half an hour at 200ºc.

Serve with crusty bread to mop up sauce. If you have cooked 1 or 2 squash and have spare sauce, it can be kept for a couple of days in the fridge and reheated as a pasta sauce.








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