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Pumpkins and squashes decorate the Cookery School in large troughs, and on windowsills here and there; their bright yellow and orange colours are almost fluorescent in this Autumn sunshine. We’ve had a very dry October with plenty sunshine which has many benefits to the gardener and farmer at this time of year, for harvesting, pruning and sowing. Inside the school, baskets of many varieties of apples are on display, harvested from the multiple orchards on the Cookery School’s 100 acre organic farm. Crate loads of ‘Worcester Pearmain’ and ‘Grenadier’ apple varieties have been picked and will be cooked in the Cookery School or stored in our cool apple store for later months. Dishes being prepared by the Students, include Spiced Pumpkin soup, Butternut Squash soup, Apple and mint jelly, Bramley apple sauce, spicy apple chutney and winter apple pie. It’s the time for soups, chutneys, jams, tomato sauce, heart-warming recipes for the cold dark months ahead.
 
European garden Heritage Network Award
 
In September Ballymaloe Cookery School were proud to receive the Special Award of the ‘European Garden Heritage Network’ - focusing on Kitchen Gardens for 2016, (supported by the Schloss Dyck Foundation).  A wonderful acknowledgement of the hard work by all the gardeners.
 
In the Kitchen Garden this month, Eileen and David have started the annual cutting back and clearance, first they carry out a rough dig and once the beds are fully cleared, layers of fresh seaweed will be spread over the soil. In some areas green manures, such as ‘Crimson Clover’, Buckwheat and Phacelia, have been sown to prevent soil erosion over the winter months. The leeks, celeriac, cut n’ come again cabbage (Delaway cabbage), carrots, parsnips, beetroot, salsify, Jerusalem artichokes are all being harvested. Edible flowers, such as Calendula, Viola tricolour (Johnny Jump-ups), Borage, Hyssop leaves and flowers, seeds from the Nigella (Love in the mist) to name a few, are being enjoyed whether being added to a savoury dish or crystallised for a dessert.
 
The ground is being prepared for the school’s New Orchard. Tom has dug generous size holes with the digger, he then backfilled the holes with the soil including the grass sod upturned. Aiden has placed support stakes in each hole and used string to ensure the rows are straight. In another month the barerooted fruit trees will be planted; Susan Turner our head gardener has ordered a reliable selection of fruit trees, there will be a mix of plums; Plum ‘Opal’, Plum ‘Czar’, Plum ‘Golden Drop’, damsons; Damson ‘Merryweather’, pears; Pear ‘Williams Bon Chretien’, Pear ‘Concorde’, apples; Apple ‘Crimson Bramley’, Apple ‘Spartan’ trees and cherries; Cherry ‘Stella’, just to name a few of the collection. It’s a perfect site, sheltered, south facing and sloped with good drainage. 
 
In the vegetable field Bill and Maria have been busy planting out the onion sets. They’ve been planted using the no-dig method; into the ground where the pumpkins have been recently harvested. Black Mypex covered this ground for the past five or six months, so the soil has not been disturbed, it’s weed-free and has good drainage, perfect for onion growing. 
 
In the glasshouses, three productive bays of tomatoes are coming to an end. They continue to be harvested, the lovely warm sunshine we’ve been enjoying in recent weeks helps keep them sweet. In another few weeks, the remainder will be harvested for freezing for use as tomato sauce. There is plenty of Black ‘Cavolo Nero’ and ‘Curly’ Kale, for the winter ahead. Young winter salad leaves, spring onions and aubergines fill other bays. The Romanesco is ready for harvesting too. 
 
The Herbaceous Borders continue to give pleasure with their Autumnal colour. Autumn perennials, such as Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Sedum ‘Ruby Glow’, Aster Frikartii ‘Monck’, Verbena Bonariensis, Rudbeckia Goldsturm, Schizostylis major -syn Hesperantha major, Soldago ‘Golden Wings’, and Anemone ‘Honoine Jobert’ to name a few. 
 
In the Ornamental Fruit Garden beneath the Black Mulberry bush, the beautiful delicate purple blooms of Colchicum autumnale commonly known as the Autumn crocus light up this garden. Here also the figs and apples continue to be harvested. 
 
Over in the Old Pleasure Garden, walnuts are being harvested from the enormous Walnut tree. Here too, the large Medlar tree (Mespilus germanica) is laden with fruit this autumn. The fruit is tart and not to everyone’s taste but they can be used to make pleasantly flavoured jellies, desserts, or for wine making. To be eaten raw, it’s best to store the fruit in a cool dark place for at least two to three weeks to allow them to blet.  Beside the Medlar, the beautiful variegated Autumnal colour of the Cornus Kousa tree adds interest at this time of year.