The abundance of autumn: Apples, blackberries, beans and more

  • 06.09.2023
  • article
  • Arable and Horticulture
  • Cooking and Growing
  • Local Food
  • Alicia Miller

Early autumn is one of my favourite times of year – there’s something about being on the cusp of seasonal change, feeling that pull into the shorter days, watching the light quietly creeping away earlier and earlier. But while winter crops start to get going as autumn darkens, there are also summer crops reaching their end, still full of abundance. On our farm, we are often still harvesting peppers and aubergines, sometimes even late tomatoes, from our polytunnels, while we look towards our winter salads and think about having leeks again.

Saying goodbye to summer is inevitably hard, so the proliferation of fruit at this time of year is a balm – it puts many a person into a frenzy of freezing and canning. Preserving food for later consumption is a habit that is disappearing quietly in our 24/7 world. Do your best to save as much as you can!


It’s always a bit of a thrill to watch our apple trees come into full fruit, with the apples dangling dangerously, ready to fall. We have a small orchard with a selection of apple trees – all eaters, but all different in shape and taste. The apples are complemented by a few pear trees and a quince. The trees begin to ripen in mid-August and by mid-September, they’re ready to crack into. We have enough to cover a couple of months’ worth of markets, off the selection of about 10 trees.

If you have any kind of garden, it’s worth putting in an apple tree (or two or three, or even four, perhaps more?) A friend of ours has a small garden with a small apple tree that is dripping with beautiful apples that are just about ready to eat – every time I visit at this time of year, I am amazed by its productivity.

Apples have been grown in the UK since Roman times and the British over centuries have cultivated an extraordinarily diverse range of them – there are as many as 2,500 varietals. But despite this diversity, it can be hard to get your hands on the vast majority of British apples. UK supermarkets largely carry only the most popular apples – Pink Lady, Braeburn, Gala and Jazz – and these are not British apples. The Cox Orange Pippin, which was once the dominant British favourite, has been in decline for years now. Apples played an important role in Britain’s cultural heritage, and the Victorians, in particular, took their cultivation seriously and turned it into something of an artform, generating hundreds of new varietals.

Luckily, there are still many heritage orchards producing British apples and it is well worth seeking them out. The distinctiveness of their diversity is myriad.


While apples are a wonderful fruit on their own, when they meet the other autumn wonder, the blackberry, it’s a match made in heaven. There’s nothing better than a simple crumble with a dollop of double cream (or, even better, custard!), the slight tartness of the blackberry married with whatever apple you have on hand. While Bramley is long favoured as the go-to apple for crumble, I much prefer a crunchier apple that still has some texture and bite after cooking. I like to mix different apples in a crumble, each bringing something slightly different to the dish, creating a more complex flavour profile. The blackberry brings its own profile which depends on where you have picked it. Finding the juiciest and sweetest is always a triumph, but you will inevitably eat an array of them in your search for the tastiest, running from the tartest and pipiest to the most gorgeous and gooiest.


It’s wise to get going early in blackberry season and pick as many as you can and freeze them; their peak passes quickly and you want the best of them to carry you through to the following September. If you are diligent, you might have enough for blackberry jelly into the depths of winter or if a fanatic, you could pick enough to last until spring.

Wild Plums

Wild plums (which are really feral plums that have broken free from their cultivars) are one of the great treats of autumn, though infuriatingly hard to get to sometimes, and their branches are laced with some unpleasant barbs. They tend to be tarter in flavour than cultivated plums but when at their best, they have a distinctive tangy flavour (especially in the skin) and, like the blackberry, the sweetness level varies. They are smaller than cultivated plums but their ‘wildness’ gives such variation to its flavour that there is lots that you can do with them beyond just jam: savoury chutneys are great and they work well with both duck and pork –  try roasting them with a little balsamic vinegar and a bit of brown sugar.

Wild plums

Hawthorn Berries

The Hawthorn tree is one of Britain’s most common trees – it grows widely across the country and is heralded for its medicinal and restorative properties. In autumn, it produces beautiful bright red berries that can be made into the most unique and tasty ‘ketchup’ that I’ve encountered. The berries ripen around October/November and while they aren’t something you want to pick and eat (they have a dry-ness that’s, well, less than yummy), when cooked the ‘haws’ soften, and you can take the pits out. There are many good recipes about, so find one you like and give it a try.

Hawthorn berries


When the lovely summer French beans finish, the Runner bean begins to flourish. Of course, eating them fresh requires a bit of tidying up with a knife to remove the stringy edges, but they have their own distinct pleasures, especially early in the autumn before they find their way into canning jars across Wales, where they are much prized. They are great in chutneys – courgette and runner bean chutney is a family favourite in our household.


While beans are undoubtedly delicious fresh, they are overlooked by many when dried – the best way to keep them. But it’s easy to be deterred by the need to boil them for an extended period of time. The Spanish, who are connoisseurs of beans, cook them every way possible, but jarred is, supposedly, the most delectable.

If you don’t have access to fresh homegrown pulses, there are some great sustainable options being grown here in the UK – like fava beans or the humble but hearty carlin pea, which is available dried from British pulse producers, Hodmedods (or if you’re looking for something that doesn’t need soaking there’s a jarred version due to be launched this week by the Bold Bean Co.) Pulses should really be a part of every diet, they are so rich in nutrients and whether dried, jarred or canned they will carry you through the year.


And now, some recipes for you to try using some of these autumnal crops…

Apple Crumble with Different Apples and Apple Blackberry Crumble – variations on a theme


  • 1 cup plain flour
  • ½ cup sugar (white sugar or white sugar and light brown sugar mixed)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 oz butter, chilled
  • optional hazelnuts, chopped roughly



  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp plain flour
  • bit of cinnamon and nutmeg to taste – don’t overwhelm
  • about of kilo or a bit more of different apples or however many looks right in your dish
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice


  1. Peel the apples, take the core out and slice them (not too thinly); put the apple slices in the dish and add the sugar, plain flour, lemon juice and spices and gently mix them all together. Let sit for about 15 minutes.
  2. For the topping, mix the flour, sugar, salt and then cut in the butter and use your fingers to break down the butter until it’s well mixed into the flour – no lumps. A food processor can do this as well, mixing it all together in under a minute.
  3. Spread topping lightly across the crumble, evenly. Try not to compact the topping.
  4. Cook low in the oven at 200 degrees for about an hour – turn the oven down to 180 degrees if it looks like the top is browning too much or cover with a bit of baking parchment.


For an Apple Blackberry Crumble follow the above recipe but cut the number of apples and increase the blackberries – include some tarter blackberries as well as the sweet ones, so the sweetness doesn’t overwhelm.

Definitely have either double cream, custard or creme fraiche on the side.


Pumpkin and Carlin Pea Spiced Dhal

Recipe courtesy of the Bold Bean Co.

  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 knob of ginger, grated
  • 750g pumpkin or squash, peeled and chopped into medium chunks
  • 1 x 700g jar of Bold Bean Co ‘Queen Carlin Peas’ with their bean stock (or 2 x 400g tins Hodmedod’s ‘Carlin Peas in Water’ with 250ml vegetable stock)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1½ tsp turmeric
  • 250g split red lentils
  • 1 x 400g can of full fat coconut milk
  • 700ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • juice of ½ lime



  • greek yoghurt
  • 1 small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves roughly chopped
  • lime wedges
  • nigella or sunflower seeds
  • mango chutney (optional)
  • naan or rice (optional)


  1. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat and add the onions with a pinch of salt. Once the onions are slightly browned (roughly 7-8 minutes), add the ginger and garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  2. Add the cumin, curry powder and turmeric with the chunks of pumpkin and red lentils. Toss the lentils and pumpkin to coat in the spices.
  3. Add the jar of ‘Queen Carlin Peas’ with their bean stock, the coconut milk and veg stock (you can also use canned ‘Carlin Peas in Water’ but rinse and drain them). Cover and simmer the dhal for 30-40 minutes, until it becomes thick and starchy and the pumpkin is soft, stirring every so often to stop the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add water if it becomes too dry.
  4. Once the dhal is nearly cooked, squeeze in the lime juice and check for seasoning.
  5. Spoon the dhal into bowls. Top with a dollop of yoghurt, fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime. Add some mango chutney for sweetness, if you like.
  6. Serve with rice or naan for something heartier.
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