The cold spring may have delayed many fruits and veggies but the hot weather has more than made up the difference.
Fat, juicy black damsons, sloes, pears, cob nuts and quinces are dripping from the trees and British apples and pears are set for a bumper year. Hedgerow fruits – notably the bramble – are everywhere right now, so get the jam pan out.
The lovely weather continuing to warm Britain may not be bang-on for wild mushrooms, but a few heavy downpours and they will soon be littering the forest floor. We are blessed with a wealth of species, from Shaggy Ink Caps and Penny Buns to Puffballs and Chanterelles, yet we still don’t have the resources for the accurate identification of these fungi, as they do in other European countries.
So, without wanting to patronise, if you want to ensure that what you take home does not become your last supper, follow the ‘don’t know, don’t pick’ rule. Most leading supermarkets and farmers’ markets sell them anyway.
Become a cider drinker
Early, sharp-flavoured English apples will soon be putting in an appearance. They, too, are abundant this year, with the prolonged sunshine helping the later varieties.
Cider drinkers should also be prepared, as presses across the south-west are revving up. Cider, apple and pear (and more exotic varieties) are once again the hottest ticket in brewing, so some great stuff is in the making right now.
No matter what the weather, now is the time for all varieties of squash. From warty, misshapen globes to brightly coloured pumpkins and petal-shaped pattypans, they are ripe and ready for steaming, mashing or roasting.
Finally, there’s an R in the month and, loose as this rough guide to buying British seafood is, September to April are the cooler months, making it the best time to eat native seafood.
The first to arrive is that fat, succulent bi-valve, the oyster. Care must be taken in choosing them, though: only ever buy from a reputable fishmonger and eat as soon as possible. And if you need to keep them for a few days, always store them in the refrigerator.
I am something of a purist when it comes to the oyster; my preference is always to taste the sweet, salty sea water and the mineral tang of the flesh and avoid all the usual accompaniments of Tabasco, vinegars, shallots and the like. Rarely do I cook them either, except for maybe slipping a few into a chowder or fish soup.
Oily fish are also at their best this month. Look for mackerel, sardines or anchovies and get frying. And, with game still flooding in, it seems the autumn feast could run to several courses.