Peter Jennings explores the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
As we return to school at the end of a strange summer, autumn will be imminent. The new season will bring colder weather, more rain, Halloween and more. However, a more under-appreciated aspect of autumn is the incredible fruit and vegetables that are in season during this period of time.
‘In season’ is a term that defines when produce of any kind (fruit, vegetables, meat, fish etc) is at its prime – in terms of quality and availability. The season of fruit and vegetables hugely affects restaurant menus and supermarket shelves, and during autumn, these fruits and vegetables are in season:
Apples are arguably the most popular fruit in Britain. They come in many shapes, sizes, colours and varieties. They are in season during autumn, although they are available throughout the year. However, autumn is the optimum time for apples to be harvested, and so during this time they are extremely crisp and flavourful, whilst being slightly cheaper than usual. Apples form part of the festivities of Halloween, the famous holiday that falls during autumn, in the form of Toffee Apples – a popular confection consisting of an apple inserted onto a stick, then dipped into liquid toffee. Apples are also perfect when accompanied with pears, another autumn fruit, meaning that they are absolutely ideal. Apples can also be an excellent accompaniment for Pork, so during autumn, many restaurants will serve pork with apple sauce in a number of different styles, either as part of a roast or in a sandwich. Apples are immensely healthy on their own, as they are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, so during autumn they should be a go-to for a snack, as they are immensely healthy, although they are better cooked in pies or combined in a fruit salad.
The best part of blackberries is the enjoyment of sourcing your own. Blackberries grow on thorned hedgerows all over Britain during autumn, and many families will spend hours walking along hedgerows, despite the weather and temperatures dipping. Hunting for the ripest and plumpest berries is a great memory of where I used to live. Blackberry pies and tarts are hugely popular, and are considered ‘tastes of autumn’, while blackberry jam is extremely popular, and is at its best when homemade in autumn, as the fruit is fresh and delicious. Blackberries are high in Vitamin C, and they are packed with fibre, a nutrient that is not consumed enough in our diets, so blackberries have very prominent health benefits. Blackberries are very sharp before being sweetened, but are delicious when combined with sugar. This makes them one of the most popular fruits overall, and my favourite autumnal fruit.
This distinctive vegetable is the most famous example of an autumn seasonal food I shall discuss here. Pumpkins are mainly associated with Halloween, and are at their most plentiful during autumn and the Halloween season. However, it is also very popular in forms other than decoration for Halloween. Pumpkin is a popular filling in ravioli and tortellini, as its texture creates an excellent compliment to the pasta. Pumpkin pie is more popular in the USA, especially for Thanksgiving, but it is also very popular. Pumpkins are also extremely rich in Vitamin A, and are high in antioxidants, so are excellent for healthy diets and preventing chronic diseases. Compared to the two previous fruits I have discussed, pumpkins are much harder to obtain outside of Autumn at all. They are a very seasonal food, and although they are not to my personal liking, they are hugely popular in October.
Parsnips and Brussels Sprouts
Surprisingly, despite being staples of the Christmas table in the winter produce season, Sprouts and Parsnips are Autumnal vegetables. Parsnips are popular in many ways, as part of potato mash, roasted with honey or even sauteed. Sprouts tend to be boiled, or are popular with bacon on the Christmas dinner table. While both vegetables divide opinion, they are extremely popular. Parsnips are at their sweetest during Autumn, and are very cheap during this time. They are a staple of autumnal meat dishes, due to their abundance, as well as their sweet flavour and soft texture when roasted. Sprouts are very popular year round, however they are in their prime during autumn (though allotment afficianados will no doubt point to the first frost being the earliest time one might harvest these). Whilst sprouts are very much a ‘Marmite’ vegetable, they are still well known for being a very tasty and healthy vegetable. In Autumn, Sprouts are extremely cheap too, as they are extremely plentiful due to their growth on large stems that can hold many sprouts.
Here is a recipe for a quick and easy blackberry and apple pie, a really tasty and simple recipe that will be fantastic for entertaining guests over this period:
The definitive ‘Jennings’ Apple and Blackberry Pie
300g Pre-made Shortcrust Pastry
4 Cooking Apples or 5 Large Green Apples
250g Blackberries (fresh)
Milk (for glazing)
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 425℉, 220℃.
- Core and slice the apples thinly, and put straight into a large pie dish (approx. 800-900ml). Add the Blackberries and Sugar into the pie dish, and stir together.
- Roll out the pastry to fit the top of the pie dish, like a lid. Dampen the edges of the pastry lid, and place onto the pie dish, then gently press the pastry down onto the edges of the dish, so that a seal is created.
- Trim any excess pastry off of the lid, so that there is a neat lid on the dish. Make a steam hole in the centre with a skewer.
- If desired, cut out leaves or other shapes from the excess pastry, dampen the backs of the shapes and press the shapes down onto the pastry lid. Finally, brush lightly with milk to make sure a golden colour is created on the pie.
- Bake the pie in the oven for 10 minutes, before reducing the temperature to gas mark 5, 375°F, or 190°C, then bake for a further 30 minutes.
- Serve warm with cream or ice cream.
Written by Peter Jennings, Year 11.
Images courtesy of Annie Spratt, Cedric Schulze, Nine Kopfer, Jordan Davies, and Aaron Burden @unsplash.com