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Saturday, May 12, 2012

The First Fruit of Summer...


I love strawberries, so I always try to have a few ready for my birthday this month. Another snowy winter followed by a long dry spell stressed the plants in the garden quite badly, so they’ve been late starting into growth. Then just as they were coming into flower, an unexpected hard frost nipped them. All the centres of the open flowers went black, which means they'll die. Luckily I had some spare strawberry plants growing in the greenhouse. They didn't suffer so badly over winter, and were protected from the worst of the weather. We picked the first ripe berries on 6th May this year. There weren’t very many, but there are plenty more to come. Those fruits were all the more delicious for being home grown, with absolutely no food miles! The weather here has been miserable for ages, so its great to escape to the greenhouse.  Opening its door to be greeted by the smell of ripe fruit is lovely, whether it’s the strawberries, or melons and tomatoes later in the year - and really fresh fruit tastes even better than it looks and smells.
My favourite time of the year is always now, whenever that might be. In spring there are all the signs of new life like snowdrops, primroses and the dawn chorus of birds to enjoy. Nightingales  arrive back in the woods of Gloucestershire after wintering in the sun, and listening to them is a real treat. 
Summer brings the delicious smell of freshly mown grass, more ripe fruit and long, hopefully sunny days.  When the sun shines - which hasn’t happened often so far this year - it’s tempting to escape from the office and head out into the garden. Thank goodness for laptops! 
We may lose the swifts and swallows in autumn, but we gain flocks of redwings attracted by windfall apples. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of collecting conkers and kicking through fallen leaves. Finally, winter’s short gloomy days makes spending time in the garden less of a temptation, but that gives me the excuse to spend more time in the kitchen. The downside of that, of course, is that calories consumed in the shape of casseroles and chocolate cake aren’t burned off easily. When it’s wet and cold or dark, it’s so easy to curl up in front of the fire after a good meal rather than muffle up and go out for a walk.
What’s your favourite time of year? There’s a signed book from my backlist on offer for a comment picked at random!

21 comments:

thebookkeeper said...

My favorite time of the year is summer. I like that there is more to do, plus is nice and warm. I was borne in the Dominican Republic where is hot all the time. Now I live in Northern New York where is cold most of the year. I love all the seasons, because I never really saw them as a child and now I get to have all of them. But, I'm a warm weather person.

TashNz said...

Hi Christina. Our summer is in December so strawberries in NZ kind of represent Christmas. Homegrown strawberries are so full of flavour. Sometimes we have them imported if they're not ready for whatever reason and they just dont have that homegrown strawberry taste. A friend has a tradition with her kids, at Christmas they go strawberry picking at the local gardens and then go make strawberry jam and we all get a jar. Beaut!!!!

My fave time of the year is winter. Lots of snuggles with the kids. Lots of warm hearty meals, especially in the slow cooker. Sports (netball) for my kids. Great excuse to do nothing and go nowhere if it's pouring in the weekend which means relaxing and boardgames. We dont have snow in my part of NZ. Winter in Auckland means lots of rain, cold (but not as cold as the lower parts of NZ)no snow and the occasional wind so not too upsetting as it may be in some parts of the world. :))

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Charina, thanks for commenting. I've found the same with New York -it's a terrific place but the weather seems to be set to either "winter" or "summer". Here in the UK the seasons seep into one another gradually, especially this year, when it's done nothing but rain!

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Tash, thanks for commenting. When my children were small, fruit picking followed by jam making was a lovely summer ritual for us, too. Opening the cupboards in winter and seeing the different coloured preserves is a very satisfying feeling.

Lil said...

I love that your favorite time of year is always now. In truth each season really does have much to recommend it. That said, the season I love most is fall. Not too hot or cold and lots of results from the garden for harvest.

little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

Kaelee said...

I like that your favorite time is now.
I have a small strawberry patch and just love the fruit that I manage to get before the robins. I don't buy strawberries as they taste like cardboard to me.
I have to go with late summer when the tomatoes are ripening on the vine and taste or so delicious. Again I have a hard time liking the store bought tomatoes.
Next would be spring when the primroses are coming out and a bit later when the lilacs are out.

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Lil, thanks for commenting. There's a lot to be said for the transitional seasons, as you say. In spring there's everything to look forward, and in autumn we all get to eat the fruits of our (or someone elses!) labour.

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Kaelee - thanks for commenting. I'm not a fan of shop-bought "two bounce" strawberries and tomatoes, either! We have one very measly wild lilac in our garden, but there are plenty of posh ones being grown down in the village. There's a lovely double white one with a heavenly scent, and I get to sniff them every day while I'm jogging. It's a shame their season isn't a bit longer.

Dina said...

I bought nice ooking straberries today looks yummy

Christina Hollis said...

Thanks for commenting, Dina - I hope your strawberries tasted as good as they looked!

marybelle said...

I love Autumn. The cool crisp mornings & sunny days. I also love strawberries. They start to appear in the markets around October here.

TashNz said...

aww, that's great Christina so many people enjoy making the jam... I rely on my friend because I have that awkward moment when you make the jam and realise that you have no jars :/

Eli Yanti said...

we only have 2 times in my country : summer and rainy and sometimes i just want winter in my country so i can play with snow :)

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Marybelle, thanks for commenting. An autumn day like that, when the leaves are just starting to change colour is a real treat, isn't it?

Christina Hollis said...

Hi, Eli, thanks for dropping by. Snow is great when you're out in it and fun to watch when you're snug inside. Unfortunately, getting from "out in the snow" to "in the warm" gets the house very wet and messy when you add children and pets to the mix!

Christina Hollis said...

I sympathise - some of my jam may have to be in honey jars this year. I love giving preserves away, but don't always get the jars back. Our bees have been struggling with the dreadful spring weather, so that means there may not be much surplus honey. That'll teach me to buy extra honey jars in the January sale!

TashNz said...

oops... i've never thought of giving the jars back... i will make sure I give them back when I am given some jam again. My Dad tried "bees" for a year or two, he didnt realise what a responsibility it was... I love the free honey, it's so expensive to buy here.

Christina Hollis said...

I never realised what a responsibility bees were either until I started keeping them! They may have survived for millions of years without beekeepers, but now we pinch their stores we've got a duty to pay them back somehow. Luckily, it's such a fascinating hobby (or as my OH calls it "obsession" !) I love spoiling my little workforce!

Christina Hollis said...

Hi everyone - I've just done the draw for the signed copy of my book. The winner is Lil!
Congratulations, Lil, and thank you again to everyone who took the time to comment. It was lovely "chatting" with you all.

Laurie G said...

I live in Wisconsin in the summertime. It's perfect weather for swimming, walking, biking, cooking and reading outside. It rarely reaches the 90*s.

I love the long daylight savings time days with light until almost 9 pm.

I like things green and lush.

I don't like cold temperatures.

TashNz said...

I applaud you Christina for keeping bees :) I'm sure you're doing a fantastic job, after my Dad's little stint I appreciate bees and bee keepers alot more than I did. :)