‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun:
Conspiring with him how to load and bless, with fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run, to bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees.
The first lines of Keat’s often quoted poem ‘ Ode to Autumn’ were never more apt this year at Gordon Castle gardens where the fruit trees are indeed ‘loaded and blessed.’
The prolific blossom and good pollination of spring has resulted in a bumper crop of plums, apples and pears. The plums are almost past, but already a ton of apples has been harvested from the trees growing round the sheltering garden walls. The walls retain the sun’s heat and as a result the fruit here ripens first allowing the apple harvest to be done in two steps. Head gardener, Ed Bollom, reckons there will be a further ton of apples from the step over and espaliered trees in the garden grounds; now a feast for the eyes from vivid reds, russets, to greens and golds as they ripen in the abiding sun.
Harvested apples sent to Elgin’s Orchards will be pressed into Gordon Castle fresh Apple juice, a favourite drink on the Café menu also on sale in the garden shop.
Gordon castle apples and pears too travel to Aberdeenshire to be made into next year’s supply of Seidear. This is a Scottish cider made by keeving and the methode champenoise which takes a year to mature. Gordon Castle Seidear apple champenoise is for sale in the shop.
A bumper crop of pears this year, considering that the trees have only been in the ground for six years, Ed, the head gardener is delighted. Some pears have already been harvested and the espaliered trees are literally hanging with ripening fruits.
Exciting news, ‘a date for your diary!’ On Thursday 29th September at 8pm on BBC1 The Beechgrove Garden will feature a visit to the gardens which took place earlier in the month on the 2nd September. Not to be missed!
September has also seen a visit from the Chairman of Christie’s to present the Historic Houses Garden Award. The photos say it all!
Pruning the crab apple trees at the garden entrance is in hand as the heavy crop of berries glowing crimson and gold continue to ripen in the warmth of the early autumn. Not long now till harvest! Crab apple jelly is especially tasty served with festive roasts.
Potatoes have been a success this year. Sarpo Una a new variety proved to give excellent quality including extra crisp chips and roast potatoes, ever popular charlottes are over for another year. At present the gardeners are harvesting Kestrel which is slightly waxy, good all round qualities, makes good roasters and bakes to a delicious creamy centre. We look forward to main crop Caledonian Rose which will be ready soon.
There are carrots, courgettes, beetroot and runner beans to harvest . The small crop of melons were delicious this year, sweet and juicy. The chillies are so prolific that there are plans to dry and tie them into strings. A great way to add heat to cooking!!
Moray Food Bank is benefiting from the abundant fruit and vegetable harvest with a weekly donation from the gardens. It is good to have the opportunity to share.
As I write the gardeners are trimming the lavender bushes, a heady perfume pervades as do the bright colours of late summer blooms. Dahlias of every size shape and hew, bright cheeky asters, the never ending sweet peas who like the cooler sheltered climate here.
Not to forget the smiling welcoming cosmos growing here in profusion. This September Scottish garden is full of colour as the flowers continue to grow in the cooling air.
And what of the pumpkins? We hope for a surprise come October for at present they are hidden under a mass of bright nasturtium flowers! Wait and see!!
The café serves freshly cooked food from Wednesday to Sunday each week. This season there is a bounty of garden produce to inspire the menu.
That same garden produce is for sale in the Potting Shed Shop where you can pick up a taste of the gardens or a beautiful bouquet to remind you of your visit as you leave.
Haste ye back to a warm welcome and the chance to wander and enjoy mother nature at her glowing best.
CIDER BAKED SWEET CHILLI AUTUMN FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
Serves 4 to 6 people
2 courgettes – washed and chopped into large chinks
4 large tomatoes – quartered
1 large leek – trimmed, washed and cut into slices
1 winter squash – peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
8 small potatoes – scrubbed and quartered
2 medium carrots – peeled and cut into chunks
2 large eating or cooking apples – cored and cut into thick slices
(you can add pears peaches, nectarines or plums)
½ bottle Gordon Castle cider
2 generous tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon rapeseed or sunflower oil
Chilli flakes or chopped fresh chilli ( remove the seeds)
Salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 200C (180/c fan) 400F, Gas 6. Line a deep roasting tin with tin foil. Toss the prepared vegetables and fruit into a deep bowl. Mix the sauce ingredients together pour over Mix well to coat the vegetables and fruit and then pour into the roasting tin. Pour any juices over the top. Season with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of chilli flakes. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes the spoon over to roast the underside. Roast for a further 15 minutes till the vegetables and are tender. Adjust seasoning if required and serve hot. Can be used as a base for soup, or served cold mixed with a salad dressing.
AUTUMN APPLE SPONGE CAKE
Makes a cake 20cm (8in) diameter
Bake at 190C (170C fan) 375 F, Gas 5
3 large eggs
75g (2 ½ oz) caster sugar
30g (1oz) honey
75g (2 ½ oz) self raising flour
20g ( ¾ oz) rolled oats
1 large cooking apple or 2 eating apples – peeled cored and sliced thinly.
Icing to finish:-
Turn on the oven to heat the oil and line the tin. Whisk the eggs, sugar and honey till thick and creamy. Sift in the flour and add the oats. Stir in gently and then pour into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Lay apple slices in overlapping rows over the surface of the sponge and then bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the middle of the oven. Remove from the oven when firm and springy to touch. Cool in the tin. Drizzle with lemon water ice when cool, cut and serve freshly baked.
RUSTIC CIDER APPLE CHEESE SCONES
A quick scone recipe easily made at the last minute.
175g (6oz) self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
45g (1 ½ oz) grated eating apple
45g (1 ½ oz) chopped walnuts
60g (2oz) grated mature cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
60g (2oz) melted butter
1 egg beaten with
Gordon Castle cider to mix
Handful of rolled oats
Turn on the oven to heat at 200C (180C fan) 400F, Gas 6. Oil and line a baking tray. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the apple, walnuts, cheese and a small handful of oats and mix together. Stir in the melted butter then stir in the egg with enough cider to make a soft, elastic dough. Flour the baking tray and turn the scone mix out onto the middle of it. Dust with flour and pat out to a round approx 2.5cm (1in) thick. Mark into 8 wedges with the blade of a knife. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes till risen and golden. Cool on the tray. Cut into wedges and eat warm and freshly baked.
Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden