This weekend saw the summer solstice come and go and from here on in the evenings will begin to get shorter. Sob. The weather here in Dublin has been nothing short of spectacular the past few weeks, so much so that my veggies are bolting with the heat and my clay soil is as dry as the sahara.
Summer is the time of year I associate with fresh fruit. As a child, there was a large farm out near where I live where you could pay to go fruit picking. Every summer, my parents would bring me there and we would spend a day picking fruit. Buckets of raspberries and strawberries. Hands stained red from the juice, track marks all over my skin from the raspberry thorns, I was a regular old berry junkie. We would spend hours there, walking around picking fruit to bring home and make jam. My dad would buy a load of jars and sugar and would get to making jam for hours. I made little labels on my computer, “J.J’s Jam” we called them. I spent a good hour or four designing a fancy label, guess this was a bit of a pre-curser to my graphic design days (yep, I was a graphic designer for a spell, I’ve had many a job in my time). He’d spend hours cooking the fruit, sterilising the jars, pouring in the jam, sealing them, labelling them and by the end of the process we’d have about 15 jars of jam. I thought this was the BEST THING EVER!
When I first got my allotment, I spent the first few weeks and months just digging the plot, installing a shed, building my raised beds and planting spuds. I didn’t necessarily give much thought to fruit and as such it was only last year I began to plant any fruit bushes. I did know however that I wanted to make jam again eventually, relive those glory days when J.J’s Jam was the jam of choice in the Kelly house.
I did have rhubarb last year, as you all know, because I have a tendency to harp on about rhubarb (no apologies, it is a wonder crop). Last summer, rhubarb was the only real fruit I got from the plot. Myself and my Dad spent one evening making 36 jars of rhubarb and ginger jam, and this year we already have about 20 jars with plenty more to come over the coming weeks.
I have criminally overlooked strawberries, an offence for which I am truly remorseful. Fresh strawberries are probably the best thing about summer in a garden. Bless me mother nature for I have sinned.
I do however have a serious crop of raspberries on the way. Having pruned my raspberry canes to the ground in early February, I am amazed at how tall they have grown, most of the canes are over seven foot tall now and the plants are throwing out runners all over the plot. There are raspberry canes popping up in my rhubarb patch, my beetroot bed (no idea how) and even in my herb garden, which is quite a distance a way from where I originally planted them. There are quite a lot of berries beginning to form now and I reckon in two weeks I’ll be able to begin harvesting and making myself some raspberry jam to add to the jars of rhubarb and gooseberry jam we already have at home. Looks like J.J’s Jams could be having a bit of a revival.
I also have some pretty gorgeous looking blueberries, not loads this year but they are very young plants and blueberry bushes take a few years to establish. I’m just pleased I got something on them, the clusters of berries are beginning to turn blue now. I’m watching them with great excitement, waiting to gorge myself on the sweet fruit like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka. I have visions of rolling my fat blue self around the plot signing the oompa-loompa song.
I have a pretty unruly blackberry bush at the back of my plot, behind my rhubarb patch, this will be the first year I get fruit from it. Blackberry picking is a particularly satisfying experience. I remember spending days on end in County Roscommon with my childhood best friend, picking blackberries in the wild, bringing them home and eating so many our tummy’s hurt and our tongues turned purple. Blackberry bushes can be a bit of a nightmare as they get a bit out of hand but I just couldn’t resist planting a little bit of nostalgia on my plot. I’ll deal with the consequences later. Famous last words, I know.
I have a redcurrant bush starting to come into its own in the corner, in fact, I had forgotten I planted it as it died off a few weeks later so imagine my surprise when it did a Lazarus on me and resurrected and began producing red currants. Hallelujah.
Now that I have a polytunnel, I shall be adding some more fruit to the plot. I am getting myself a fig tree, strawberries, a miniature citrus tree, cherries, gooseberries and even kumquats (idea courtesy of my very adventurous foodie Mother, Janette).
So, in honour of these juicy developments on my plot, this week on the blog I’m getting a bit fruity. I’ll be sharing some tips on growing fruit in your own garden and on making your very own jam so keep your eyes peeled. Get it? Peeled? Like fruit? You peel fruit? See how I’m over explaining my terrible pun? Is it getting a bit sour now?
(And yes, it may be fruit week but I am clearly nuts.)