A few hundred years back, some quite serious wars were fought for control of the spice trade. At this time of year, one can see why. The crops available during an English winter are pretty bland, aren’t they? And quite a lot of them taste of cabbage, which is not to everyone’s taste. I wish I could suggest crops to plant now, which would enliven the coming months; however, though greenhouse heaters can provide warmth, you are still left with a shortage of daylight, which helps neither germination nor ripening.

The traditional solutions to this problem are to store, and to preserve. I hope that after an excellent season you still have plenty of potatoes, onions, and apples, which will last for weeks. Keep them cool, dark, and dry – and, particularly with apples, check regularly to see that none are going bad. There is only space here to recommend pickles, jams, and chutneys, so I will do just that; if you are not fortunate enough to have inherited a book of recipes from your grandmother (or for all I know, your grandfather) there are acres of stuff all over the net. And we still have libraries, and bookshops.

This does not mean, of course, that you should stay indoors. Other considerations aside, working outside in autumn can be a delight, particularly after a fine summer, when the sugars in tree leaves make for wonderful changes of colour. Anyone with a pond nearby is also likely to have a garden full of damsel flies – take a close look at one, some time; it is worth it.

Fairly soon now it will be time to harvest the last of the tomatoes and chillis in the greenhouse. (Sorry if that sounds like a gloat. It is, of course). At the end of the season various moulds and mildews will have made their presence felt; wash the whole thing down, with whatever cleaning agents your conscience will allow. Keep digging your beds, plant bare-root fruit trees and bushes, and if you have a bonfire, check that nothing is asleep in it.

Jon Gunson, TTL.


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