Kitchen Garden: Prepare for autumn and have a happy harvest
- Credit: Archant
September is here and the season is on the turn. Linda Duffin enjoys the fruits of her labours and shares a delicious barbecued sweetcorn with chilli and lime butter recipe
September is one of my favourite months in the garden, when unwary visitors may find me singing harvest festival hymns to my hens. (Doesn’t everyone? Oh.)
The late summer vegetables are still cropping, the orchard fruits are ready for picking and the autumn equinox is almost upon us, but with a bit of luck it’s still warm and sunny. We’ve dug the plot and scattered the good seed on the land, but in case you haven’t, here are a few jobs to be thinking of this month.
Apples, pears, plums, quince and medlars should be ready to pick around now. If they are still not quite ripe and the branches are heavily laden, consider supporting them so they don’t break. Pick off any rotting or damaged fruit. Windfalls are useful for chutney, another of my favourite things around now. Any gluts in the orchard or veg plot can be pickled, dried, frozen, stored or turned into booze to be enjoyed in the winter.
When peas and beans have finished cropping, cut them off at ground level and leave the roots in the soil. They release nitrogen as they break down, helpful to next year’s plants, although of course you should practice crop rotation and plant something different in that spot next time.
Keep an eye on your pumpkins and squashes and remove any leaves that may be shadowing them to help them ripen in plenty of light and air.
Net your brassicas and cut back your summer fruiting raspberries, if you haven’t already, and tidy up the strawberry bed, potting up any runners for future years. If you are harvesting maincrop potatoes, let them dry out for a few hours before storing them in breathable sacks. And watch out for the tiddlers that get left behind in the soil or you’ll have potatoes springing up in the middle of your bean crop next year. I speak from bitter experience.
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Start planting autumn onion and garlic sets, and continue to sow vegetables to enjoy in the spring, such as spinach, turnips and Oriental veg. We sometimes plant pak choi or broad beans to overwinter in the greenhouse once the tomatoes have finished, but at the moment the toms are still cropping well for salads, sauces and ketchups.
And if you planted sweetcorn, you should be enjoying the fruits of your labours this month. As I’ve mentioned before, you can tell they are ripe when the tassels turn dark brown or black, but to be sure, nick a kernel with your thumb nail. If it exudes a milky juice, it’s ripe. If it’s clear, leave the corn to ripen a bit longer.
It takes a lot to beat freshly-picked sweetcorn thrown into a pot of ready-simmering water – the sugars turn into starches alarmingly quickly if they’re left lying around. But it is also fantastic cooked on the barbecue. Sometimes we throw them on still wrapped in their green sleeves and let them roast in the protective coating.
Alternatively you might like to try this simple but tasty recipe, which works well with barbecued and grilled meats, especially steak and chicken.
Barbecued Sweetcorn with Chilli and Lime Butter
8 corncobs, husks and threads removed
100g salted butter, softened at room temperature
1 medium-hot red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
A small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
The zest of 1 lime
A good squeeze of lime juice
Preheat your barbecue. To make the chilli and lime butter put all the ingredients except the sweetcorn in a bowl and mash together with a fork.
Scrape onto a piece of plastic wrap and roll as tightly as possible into a sausage shape, twisting the ends of the cling film together. Place in the fridge to firm up.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil on the stove and cook the sweetcorn at a brisk simmer for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain and allow to cool for five minutes or so.
Brush the sweetcorn with a little oil and cook on the barbecue for about 10 minutes, turning from time to time, until bits of it are tinged with brown.
Put the corn on a big platter, cut the butter into thin circles and use it to top the corncobs.
Linda Duffin is committed to growing, cooking and eating good food.
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