Back at the beginning of August I came across a whole debate on the net originating from a blog by an American pagan who essentially said they didn’t believe in celebrating Lammas (the first harvest and start of autumn) because August is not autumn where they are. Well here in the UK it seems a different story. Within days of reading that I was a Springfield Sanctuary harvesting lots of flowering herbs and making burns honey, borage flower vinegar, vervain flower essence, mugwort vinegar and vervain tincture and over the next few weeks I have noticed the early signs of autumn. Leaves are falling, herbs are getting past their best and there is an abundance of crops all ready to harvest.
This year has been a strange year for the plants. All my vegetables have been very late in developing and it seemed like nothing was wanting to grow and all of a sudden everything is overripe and ready to crop immediately. I have found myself going into panic mode. What do I do? There is only so much time in the day! If I don’t deal with it straight away it will spoil! I’m going on holiday and will miss the best of the harvest!
Therefore I have set myself the task of prioritising what it is that I really want to harvest e.g.
- I want veg for my freezer and to make into preserves
- I want hawthorn berries, elderberries and blackberries
- I want lemon balm, mugwort, lavender and other herbs
- I want to make, jams, wines, cordials and chutneys
- More nettles for seed.
What are my priorities? e.g.
- The herbs are going over so need picking soon, they also need a dry day.
- Runner beans need picking but keep for a few days after picking.
- Cabbages, potatoes & roots won’t harm in the ground for a while.
- Calendulas need picking when they are open.
- Berries will be around for a couple more weeks.
Thinking this over can be quite helpful as it helps prevent a kitchen full of produce needing attention when I am too exhausted from spending all day harvesting.
I have found it useful to do the following:
- Decide what you are going to pick on what days – check weather forecast.
- Sort and tie herbs into bundles for drying as you are picking them in the garden. That way mess stays outside and all they need doing is hanging up. (I don’t tend to wash my herbs from the garden as I know they aren’t pollluted and it helps prevent mildew forming).
- Any tinctures etc take jars into garden and put herbs straight in.
Veg can be done in batches and frozen. The quicker it can get in the freezer the better. Focus on one veg at a time.
- If it’s a nice sunny day prioritise the herbs. Berries and veg are OK to harvest in the wet.
- Berry pickers are great for elderberries.
- Freezing is great for any berries you are going to make preserves from, but remeber to wash and weigh before they go into freezer. The taste of wines, cordials and jams don’t seem affect by the berries being frozen first.
Hopefully if I follow my own simple rules I will have time to collect everything I need for the next 12 months.