After the marathon of July and August, the pace of September has slowed to a jog. A slow winding down end of season drowsiness that comes with its very own colour palette of feuille morte: of burnished and rusted yellowish browns and brownish oranges. Now is the time for preserving the flavours of the season in a jar, but also to looking ahead and making tinctures and brews of the bubbling and fermenting sort that will have more of a use in the garden in the months to come than a place at the kitchen table.
On the theme of glorious rot, head gardener Joshua Sparkes has some of his own home-brewed recipes to add to the all pervading smell of Autumn. Including a fish emulsion, inspired by natural Korean farming methods. It’s to use on the garden in Spring as the foliage starts to grow. A homemade brew which Josh much prefers to a commercial alternative which more often than not has been stripped of its essential oils.
For this, he’ll use left-over fish bones and guts, making sure the fish was originally line caught and from a sustainable fishing source. This will go into a bucket with an equal amount of sugar (ideally organic brown), covered with water and weighted on top as if fermenting it. Put a lid over the brew and leave it for a few weeks after which time the ‘juice’ can be strained and stored. Use on a ratio of 1 part to 25 parts of water.
This is one to make in the Spring when the nettles and cleaves are quick and fast growing. It’s essentially distilling the chemical vim of weeds, and harnessing some of their vigour and putting it back into the garden.
Combine an equal amount of chopped weeds with sugar, decanting the mixture into a jar/s. Cover with a breathable lid and leave for one to two weeks until its syrupy and black. Decant the syrup and dilute with 1 to 25 parts of water.
A late Summer version could be made with pinched out tomato tips and the goodness put back into the tomato plants once ready.
FFJ – Fermented Fruit Juice
Much the same as the method for SPJ but using apples and pears.
Any egg shells that aren’t crushed up and scattered over the kitchen garden to re-route a slimy trail, can be baked and used as a soluble calcium source on tomatoes, just after they’ve flowered and at the point they’re fattening up.
Bake them in the oven at a low drying heat for 30 minutes. Crush them up and mix with an equal part of rice vinegar, letting the mixture sit for half an hour or so until it stops bubbling. As rule rule of thumb mix 1 tablespoon of crushed egg shell with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and dilute the mix in one gallon of water.