What's in Season in September
‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees
To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells’
These first few lines of the famous poem by John Keats tell us exactly what new fresh produce is available in September. The maturing sun, as he describes the last heat of the year, is doing its bit to ripen the remaining crops of the prolific growing season and bring forth a harvest worth celebrating. We are now welcoming orchard fruits, nuts and squash, among other tasty bits and pieces, to bring flavour and colour to our autumn table.
Homegrown squash are beautiful ingredients to work with in the kitchen. Fabulous fragrant flesh which roasts like a dream and adds vibrant seasonal hues to curries and autumn casseroles. Look for varieties like Crown Prince, Acorn, Butternut, Golden or Blue Hubbard. All have superb cooking and flavour qualities and puree like velvet for soups. But they also make stunning table centrepieces if you’re having an autumn dinner party.
Squash in Ireland are grown mainly by small holders so you will have to search your local farm shop or farmer’s market to bag a few. They keep really well in a dry cupboard or larder so grab ‘em while you can.
The first of autumn’s apple crop has started to arrive in good food shops, farm shops and farmer’s markets. Check out the on site shops of our apple growers like The Apple Farm and Ballycross for this season’s fresh crop, plus apple juices made from home grown apples. Bramley apples are great for cooking – they puree to a smooth pulp for apple sauce or meld into a glowing golden filling for apple pies and tarts.
Eating apples like Discovery keep their shape in cooking and work great in recipes like this Wexford Apple Tart Tatin.
Pears are not grown widely in Ireland. Con Traas of The Apple Farm in Cahir Co. Tipperary has a few pear trees bearing fruit this time of year. Call in at the shop on site at the farm and see if you can grab some Irish pears in the next week or two. Small quantities only, so they go quick!
Nuts aren’t grown on a commercial scale in Ireland, mainly due to lack of knowledge of how to grow them in our damp climate. But some enterprising and adventurous smallholders and independent growers do grow a clutch of different nut varieties, the main ones being hazelnuts and cobnuts. Specialist horticulturalists stock hazelnut, cobnut and walnut trees so you can plant one in your garden and get your own crop in a few years time. But until then, search your local markets and farm shops for new season nuts.
The last of the Irish tomatoes are now being picked by smallholders. Lots of different ones, from beef, to plum to heritage varieties. You may in the next few weeks find green tomatoes coming into the market – these are fully grown tomatoes that will not have a chance to ripen on the vine as autumn kicks in properly. One old wives trick is to line up your green tomatoes on a sunny window ledge and let them ripen in their own time.
And if that fails, never fear, green tomatoes make fantastic chutney. So don’t turn your nose up when you see them. Just grab a bagful and get preserving!
Traditionally, September was the month when native oysters came back into season after the break of the summer months. Oyster festivals like the one in Galway were based around this landmark occasion! Nowadays, oysters are farmed inshore in Ireland’s coastal waters so they are available almost all year round. But there is still something special about our native oysters and its worth seeking them out this month.