From Autumn to Winter

Ardivachar Cottage Bay

Sunday: it is quiet today. The wind has abated and the sea settles as the squalls are pulled northwards to chase round the eye of the storm as it heads for Iceland The November sun is too weak to banish the early morning chill so fingers remain cold and clumsy, thrust deep into the worn pockets of an old jacket with fraying cuffs . A miasma of seaweed emanates from the beach beckoning the birds to a morning feast. The mountains of amber kelp teem with life, a perpetuum mobile of foraging and squabbling starlings.

Black Russian

No time to idle along the shore inspecting the tide line for the discarded treasures of a storm, there is work to do. This is the reign of Cailleach Bheur, the blue hag, mother of darkness, bringer of storms and daughter of the winter sun and the last remnants of the summer have to be consigned to the flames.

Earlier in the year I had not expected to have enough green tomatoes for a jar or two of chutney, however, our golden autumn rewarded us with a late harvest of peppers and tomatoes. 

Usually the tomato vines are cut down in September, this year I was still harvesting a profusion of beautiful dusky fruits. I grew Black Russian last year with wonderful results. However, the summer of 2014 was very different to 2015 and I was not sure if it would still produce good tasty fruit. Fruiting was late, and the crop not as abundant, but this variety seems able to produces large juicy tomatoes with a wonderful flavour even in cool damp summers, although I expect some unexpected late autumn sunshine helped.

Spanish Spice

I’ve never had too much success with peppers, and had vowed that if I didn’t produce anything that was worth eating I would give up. I doubt if it was the growing conditions of our very miserable summer which made the difference or even the extended growing season of a good autumn,

I suspect it was the choice of variety. Both Sumner and Spanish Spice produced satisfying numbers of bright red fruit of a good size and terrific flavour. King of the North was disappointing, only a small number of fruit which had to be coaxed to ripen on the kitchen window sill.


All good things must come to an end and there remains little chance of the last green tomatoes ripening, so they will provide me with a few jars of chutney which should be quite lively if I add some of the last few peppers.

It would be an exaggeration to declare that we had a glut to tomatoes in October, but there were certainly enough to produce a series of tomato tarts and a few containers of roasted tomatoes for the freezer.

Tomato tart on a bed of crowdie with a pine nut crust
Tomato tart on a bed of crowdie with a pine nut crust

11 thoughts on “From Autumn to Winter

  1. Very thoughtful and well-crafted writing, and I like what you write. It suggests you’ve the time to think. It’s encouraging me to do more like this, as I used to. Tioraidh an drasd!

    • Thank you Jonathan. I don’t usually write unless I have something to say and it is always better when my muse is not too grumpy. It is easy to think and write hear, the landscape inspires me all the time.

  2. I think I will try Black Russian next year, it sounds wonderful. I have had some great peppers this year from seeds Christina at My Hesperides Garden gave me. I don’ t know which variety they are though. Your tart looks delicious but what on earth is crowdie?

    • I’d be delighted to know how it performs further south. I’m told Black Krim is very similar, but I think I’ll stick with this one.
      Crowdie is a Scottish cream cheese. It is very light with a mousse like texture and a citrus tang. I prefer it to mascapone as it is a little lighter with a better flavour, but that might be a reflection on the one brand of mascapone I can buy here. For the tart I mixed in a beathen egg and a tablespoon of ground almonds (to stop it curdling) and added black pepper and thyme.

  3. Love the look of your tart. Our tomatoes have gone on a long time too. Just been in the garden this morning planting a few more daffodils.

    • I think many of us have enjoyed a good autumn season in the greenhouse. I managed to repot most of my bulbs, but still have a box of daffs to go into the garden. All I need is a calm day!

      • Liz Morton

        Oh I like the look of that tomato tart & I shall try the crowdie. I’ve just had a birthday party & the names on the tables were 8 of your wonderful islands!

  4. Liz Morton

    Oh I like the look of that tomato tart & I shall try the crowdie. I’ve just had a birthday party & the names on the tables were 8 of your wonderful islands.

  5. Look at all that blue sky! Glad you had success with your Black Russians – I found mine soft and tasteless when I tried them, sadly. Your tomato tart sounds tasty though!

    • Perhaps they like the tougher growing conditions and the salty air!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.