Category Archives: fruit

Lemon & Juniper

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Six lemons from Spain, unwaxed (but treated with Imazalil, Pyrimethanil, Orthophenylphenol, which I try to scrub off, like the world’s sins, under running water).

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Three tablespoons of juniper berries – that smell like old libraries, venerable and hushed, until I crush them (in a bag on the floor with the wooden rolling pin) and then the scent’s of gin – heady, territorial, a smidgeon of fox.

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I cut the lemons into pale half moons, spoked and floating in their own juice.  Half a jug of water and a good splash of actual gin (‘distilled in London to a secret recipe’) – and a quick nip for the cook, who has this January such a longing to slice and simmer and sweeten, to preserve – keep ‘five 300 ml jars’ of the world on my pantry shelf and give it away and spoon it onto toast till my mouth sparks with hearth and hillside, the moon cooked.

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Forty minutes and the kitchen’s nothing if not lemony.  All my thoughts are yellow and I am singing ghazals, rinsing jars fit for a king, adding the sugar – a whole bag made from beets farmed in Bury St Edmunds.  It’s bubbling now (think cauldron), slurping and shapeshifting, a life of its own.  My kitchen smells like a factory, a distillery, as if it belongs entirely to the silver pot on the stove.

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And then a stillness, as the amber concoction cools before I pour it, stickily, into the jars.  Licking the spoon, my tongue tingles with citrus and another latitude entirely.  We have travelled far – but all that labour and summoning and only three scant jars.

 

Thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi for this and all his wonderful recipes.

 

 

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Apple Pressing Day

IMAG1430A wonderful day at the Farmer’s Market in Hexham on Saturday – surrounded by apples and juice and everyone in good spirits.  As the apples were being pressed, I gathered people’s apple memories –  from Durham to Himachal Pradesh, from Holland to Northumberland, from Kent to Slovakia, from wartime to that very morning.   FullSizeRenderThe plan is I’ll weave the 52 luggage-label offerings into a collaborative, on-the-fly renga.  To follow shortly…FullSizeRender

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The Unexpected Orchard

Friday was a beautiful day and I tagged along with a couple of Transition Tynedalers to pick some apples at Jim’s orchard – an unlikely spot squeezed between the River Tyne and the A69 on the edge of Hexham.

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It was the start of a conversation I’ll be having with Transition Tynedale (and Edible Hexham) considering the poetry of food, gardening and ecology. Part of a new Northern Poetry Library Project, which is placing six poets in residence in libraries across the county. I’ll be based close to home in Hexham. There’s a launch reading at the Northern Poetry Library in Morpeth on National Poetry Day, Thursday 8th October at 7pm. Do come along if you’d like to find out more and meet the poets.

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Transition Tynedale will be pressing some of Jim’s apples (and others) at Hexham Farmers’ Market on Saturday 10th October 10 – 1. If you’re passing, come and say hello and have a taste of juice. I will also be pressing poems out of people!

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At 96, Jim has trouble keeping on top of this wonderful orchard he planted himself. Figs, peaches, medlars and soft fruit as well as apples. Talking to him put me in mind of Robert Frost’s poem After Apple Picking.

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After Apple-Picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree

Toward heaven still,

And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill

Beside it, and there may be two or three

Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.

But I am done with apple-picking now.

Essence of winter sleep is on the night,

The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight

I got from looking through a pane of glass

I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough

And held against the world of hoary grass.

It melted, and I let it fall and break.

But I was well

Upon my way to sleep before it fell,

And I could tell

What form my dreaming was about to take.

Magnified apples appear and disappear,

Stem end and blossom end,

And every fleck of russet showing clear.

My instep arch not only keeps the ache,

It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.

I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin

The rumbling sound

Of load on load of apples coming in.

For I have had too much

Of apple-picking: I am overtired

Of the great harvest I myself desired.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,

Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.

For all

That struck the earth,

No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,

Went surely to the cider-apple heap

As of no worth.

One can see what will trouble

This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.

Were he not gone,

The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his

Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,

Or just some human sleep.

Robert Frost

 

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Harvest

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Ripeness

 
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Ripeness is

what falls away with ease.

Not only the heavy apple,

the pear,

but also the dried brown strands

of autumn iris from their corm.

 

To let your body

love this world

that gave itself to your care

in all of its ripeness,

with ease,

and will take itself from you

in equal ripeness and ease,

is also harvest.

 

And however sharply

you are tested –

this sorrow, that great love –

it too will leave on that clean knife.

 

Jane Hirshfield

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Persimmons

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From the Japanese

Diospyros kaki

 

You came in from the rain

carrying four persimmons,

four translucent suns –

a taste, you said, your lips

had never visited.

Later, opened, surrendered,

we spooned flesh

and seed from the orange cups –

mouthfuls of light, perfume

that draws the whole body in.

Eyes closed, we tried,

and failed, to give words

to a sweetness we were

in danger of forgetting

we deserved and only we

could pluck the fruit.

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