A Garden Visitor

“The hedgehog hides beneath the rotten hedge

And makes a great round nest of grass and sedge,

Or in a bush or hollow of a tree….”  from The Hedgehog by John Clare (1793 – 1864).

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Eating Seasonally

One of my most popular posts at the moment is my recipe for Damson Plum Crumble Cake. On the list of search engine terms which have brought people to my blog, “damson dessert recipes”, “baking with damsons” and “damson cake recipes” appear frequently. This increase in searches for things to make with damsons began a couple of weeks ago; at this time of year, plum trees are laden with fruit.

Damson plum cake

The season is changing, the leaves are just beginning to turn and hints of fall are in the air, bringing to mind frosty mornings, log fires and home-made apple crisps. As Keats wrote in his Ode to Autumn, the fall is a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”,  a time of abundance which “bend[s] with apples the moss’d cottage trees/And fill[s] all fruit with ripeness to the core”. It is my favourite season!

September in the Forest, by Larisa Koshkina (Public domain image source)

The abundance of delicious fruit and vegetables at this time of year makes it easy to eat seasonally. But I think it is important to eat with the seasons as much as possible all year round. Even though you can buy strawberries at Christmas, cherries in January and apples shipped in from New Zealand, there are many benefits to cooking and eating by nature’s calendar:

  • It is more satisfying to know you are eating food that hasn’t been flown half-way across the world, generating environmentally harmful emissions in the process.
  • Locally grown, seasonal fruit and veg tastes better because it has been allowed to grow and ripen naturally.
  • Eating locally and seasonally supports small businesses and generates income for farmers and growers, thereby helping the local economy.
  • Buying seasonal produce can mean that you experience a world of fruit and veg varieties beyond what is available in the supermarket aisles, such as Heirloom tomato varieties, doughnut peaches and Romanesco cauliflower.
  • Many local/seasonal growers are also organic, growing their produce without the use of harsh chemicals and artificial sprays. Research supports the claim that organic fruit and veg is healthier than ‘conventionally’ grown fruit and veg (before the advent of modern chemicals, organic was the conventional way of growing). An analysis of over 300 scientific studies, published last month in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that “organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown ones”. If you are interested, you can read about the research here.

Pumpkin squash, by Erich Mauber (public domain image source)

Ultimately, eating with the seasons helps you become healthier, boosts your enjoyment of food and supports your local community. What’s not to love?!

Do you make an effort to eat seasonally? If you need a little help to start following nature’s timetable, take a look at Eat the Seasons (US site) or Eat the Seasons (UK site) to find inspiration!

A Little Bit of Silliness

Here’s a little bit of silliness to make you smile on this Monday morning. I remember this rhyme from my childhood and it still makes me giggle.

(Rhyme: Anon. Graphic created by me, using Pinwords.com. Image sourced from PublicDomainPictures.net).

Do you remember any rhymes or limericks from your childhood which make you smile?

Belsay Hall: an exhibition of Jane Austen costumes

Driving south from Scotland last summer, we stumbled across Belsay Hall in the north-east of England.

Built in the early nineteenth century, Belsay Hall was the home of the Middleton family until the 1960s, when it was discovered that the house had been very badly affected by dry rot. Today, it lies empty.

A view of the Pillar Hall atrium at Belsay

A view of the Pillar Hall atrium at Belsay

Another view of Belsay

Another view of Belsay

 

Although I prefer visiting country houses which are still furnished and lived in, my interest was piqued by Belsay’s advertisement for an exhibition of costumes from movie and television adaptations of Jane Austen novels. People who know me well and regular readers of Cultural Life will know that I take delight in all things Austen, so it was a fun opportunity to be able to see some of the costumes from the adaptations.

Outfits from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: the 1995 BBC version starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy

One of the outfits worn by Elizabeth

A coat, shirt and breeches worn by Mr. Darcy, during the infamous scene when he dives into the lake near Pemberley. The script-writer took some artistic licence with that scene; it’s not in the book.

Mr and Mrs Darcy’s wedding clothes

Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennet): “It is settled between us already that we are to be the happiest couple in the world”

The wedding of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy -- copyright BBC

The wedding of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy — copyright BBC

Outfits from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy

A dress and necklace worn by Mr. Darcy’s fearsome aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (played by Judi Dench)

A suit worn by Mr. Darcy

Outfits from SENSE AND SENSIBILITY: the 1995 movie version starring Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood and Kate Winslet as Marianne

One of Elinor Dashwood’s outfits:

The wedding outfits of Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) and Marianne Dashwood

Colonel Brandon was now as happy as all those who best loved him believed he deserved to be. In Marianne he was consoled for every past affliction; her regard and her society restored his mind to animation, and his spirits to cheerfulness; and that Marianne found her own happiness in forming his, was equally the persuasion and delight of each observing friend. Marianne could never love by halves and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.

Do you enjoy costume dramas and adaptations of classic novels?