20 Jun 2020

Fifty Shades of Red

So this is it ... the start of summer proper as heralded by sixteen plus hours of daylight, a solar eclipse and the summer solstice - all happening today.  But in the Veg Patch, the lead up to this momentous day has been all about berries and cherries. Especially the cherries.

Regular readers might recall that the cherry variety chosen for our little veg garden is Morello, the sour cherry. In hindsight, I suspect we knew very little about the Morello except that the name was familiar.  I'm fairly certain we had little idea that the flavour would be similar to sucking lemons. Harsh but frequently true.

On the plus side, the fresh fruit is impossible to buy in the shops which puts it in the category of unattainable and, possibly, desirable. (It's this cherry that the well known American cherry pie is baked with.) But, here in the UK, it's unavailable for no other reason than that they are of limited commercial value, as they are definitely not a snacking cherry, something I regret every year.  But, let's face it, if they were sweet cherries, the birds would get there before me.

Last year I lost almost the entire crop thanks to waiting patiently for the fruit to ripen to a slightly more palatable deep dark red. Big mistake. By the time I picked them, they had been discovered by fruit flies for the purpose of laying an egg in each which swiftly becomes a tiny white maggot. Don't ask me how I know this; let's just say it was a special moment.

Needless to say, this year I am vigilant. I will not be taken by surprise by the sudden ripening of said fruit and have been patrolling up and down, sampling and noting the various hues of red, ready to pounce and pick.  A small punnet has already been brought indoors.

I would have, and could have, picked a lot more but I haven't quite sorted out what to do with them yet. These trees have always fruited generously which means there's ample scope for being creative in the kitchen.

The cherries are best used fresh (compote? pie? clafoutie? I haven't tried that yet.) but will keep for a few days in the fridge, more in the freezer and probably forever pickled in alcohol. At the risk of being repetitive, I'll probably make some more cherry chutney - it stores well and I'm partial to a lump of cheese with a side of chutney, preferably on freshly baked bread. And as I'm trying to avoid using sugar, I'm sweetening the compote with strawberries and maybe just a little honey.

Continuing this week's red theme ...

Huge luscious strawberries - I would say bowl after tempting bowl but most got eaten fresh from the stalk.

Ditto radishes. A quick wash in the water butt and breakfast is ready!

The first raspberries. None have made it to the kitchen yet. (And, bizarrely, they are autumn fruiting Polka berries in June. I'm not complaining.)

Nasturtiums.  These are the same plants that flowered last year, came through the winter months intact and have been flowering again since early spring. Just lovely ... and deliciously peppery in a salad.

And poppies, The big poppies have dropped their petals but little wild poppies keep cropping up - and very welcome they are too.

Last but very definitely not least... the ladybirds are back! A big cheer for all the ladybirds in my garden, heroically munching their way through hordes of aphids. This year seems to have brought pests in plague proportions so I have been very careful to rescue any ladybird larvae when pruning and tidying and relocate them to safety.

Wishing everyone a very happy summer solstice; we're unlikely to see much of the sun through grey skies but it's still a good day for making flower crowns, lighting a candle, acknowledging the season's passing, and gathering (in a safe and socially distanced way, of course!)


  1. I have berry envy Caro, it all sounds wonderful!

  2. Ah, thank you, Pauline! The garden is my absolute delight at the moment - as, I'm sure, is yours to you. Midsummer is such a lovely time in the garden when all the perennials open and, hopefully, a lot of the hard work of spring is over.

  3. Autumn fruiting raspberries will fruit now on last yea’rs canes if they are not cut down and in late summer on canes produced this year so could you have missed cutting down some canes?

  4. Our raspberries (Glen Ample) have stolen a march on the strawberries this year! Redcurrants and blackcurrants and blueberries are 'on the way', gooseberries already in evidence. These last are as acidic as you cherries.

  5. Lovely seeing all that delicious red! I have two Morello cherry trees which I leave for the birds who will strip them bare in two days. A friend took a load and said the jam was lovely. Like you, I try to avoid using copious amounts of sugar so never make jam. It has been a wonderful year for soft fruit hasn't it? I wander around snacking on strawberries too.xxx


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