Woe is me,
a surfeit of quinces. It's that time of year again. Our friends have a quince tree, and Japonica bushes besides. In their early days here they hankered for and planted one of these most beautiful, elegant and archaic of orchard trees, and greeted the first few fruits with delight, but now we are submerged in the things, as well as quince jelly, paste, membrillo, even chutney. We wonder what else one can possibly do with them, dine on slices of them with mince eaten with a runcible spoon? Not very promising, though Nigel Slater did yield a recipe involving putting them in a stuffing for lamb with bulgar wheat, which he said had the advantage of getting rid of a couple of them, so he must have been in the same boat. But lamb here is expensive, and unless you go towards Mont St Michel, fairly indifferent, we seldom buy it, and Tom doesn't like bulgar.
Fruit gluts here are often something of a problem, since we don't do dessert much, and beyond the odd slice of toast with marmalade, if we do have jam I'm afraid we rather like it red or purple with a bit of chewiness, so all the jellies soother than the creamy curd in various shades of gold and pink, pretty though they are, tend to sit around a bit. We seek out savoury applications, but these don't really use a lot, and we rather like our ham plain with a slick of mustard and our cheese plain with a glass of wine. Fruit liqueurs are a fairly safe bet and usually get drunk some time over the winter (as may we) but we still have some of last year's quince ratafia, not bad, made with the tail end of a bottle of rum, some very cheap and sweet Muscat de Samos and a bottle of Lidl vodka, and something similar may happen to these in the end.
Yet I can never refuse them, if only because of their heady perfume, and that they make me feel as if I'm living in a mediaeval tapestry. Our friends don't seem to learn either; the Quiet American, typically beguiled by all things Old World and quaint, and intrigued by my experiments with scrumped medlars a few years ago (gosh but it makes me sad going over old blog posts, snows of yesteryear and all that, and always reminders of loved and lost ones...), is still making noises about planting a tree, so if we all live long enough hereabouts we'll be wondering what to do with a surfeit of medlars, which sounds very Shakespearian.
No glut of pumpkins this year, these two were the total of my crop. I've vowed never again to grow the big watery, tasteless rouge d'étampes things again, but a few more butternut squash wouldn't go amiss. Tom professes not to like these either, but they can very easily be roasted and slipped into our soups and stews without too much objection, and I appreciate them greatly. We had a couple of third-hand samples of other people's surplus though, so we won't go short of our beta-carotene.
The final real fruiting oddity though, was a mysterious plant that seeded itself in the back of a flower bed. I kept meaning to pull it up, assuming it was a nightshadey sort of weed, but when I went to do so, it had expanded considerably, and on closer inspection turned out to be an edible physalis plant.
It bears very small boldly marked flowers, which all kinds of bees find irresistible, but which don't seem to turn into fruit so are presumably the male flowers, and an abundance of the lantern cased, cherry sized fruits.
I can't imagine how the plant was seeded here, I buy them occasionally but we eat them all up, and certainly don't throw them in the compost or spit the pips out or give them to the birds. Something sometimes gets to the ones on the plant before I do however, and I find empty husks, so perhaps a sharp-eyed bird found one somewhere and deposited the seed in the evolution honoured way.
We've eaten quite a number of them ripe already, but the plant continues to spread and sprawl and make more and more green fruit. A friend who grew up in southern Africa says they grow like weeds on verges and rubbish tips and anywhere you like there, and one year she grew some here and the summer and autumn were long and warm enough to yield a good picking. I can't imagine these will come to much now though, although I've tried to train the stems up the hedge to get them most sun and light, and the eager bees are determinedly braving the October chill to bustle round the flowers. I wonder if I snip the biggest ones off and leave them in their husks on a warm windowsill they'll be viable. Unlike many of the exotic fruits which have become fashionable of recent years for their decorative beauty and bizarre shapes, (star fruit? bleugh!) they have a unique, intense and quite delicious flavour which just shouts vitamin C at you. Standing with bare legs of an October morning and biting into a cold one reminds me I'm alive, and glad of it.