This time of year makes me think about the earth spinning, the time moving and no matter how much we may wish time to stand still and the sun to remain beaming and the nights to remain bright, the dark will draw in, the sun will be less warm and the leaves on the trees will fall as nature prepares to hibernate for the winter.
I remember as a child, Harvest Festival used to be a big thing. It used to be fun, I used to take my pony and ride it to church where we would give gifts of food and harvest to celebrate what the earth had thrown up to us. It gave us a moment to feel grateful of receiving.
I loved the smell of the hops. It was later that I learnt about their soporific & therapeutic effects. No wonder I always felt so relaxed after my visit to church.
I do find myself in my hectic, crazy life with electric lights and food whenever I want it and seasonal foods & fruits a thing of the past, that the natural order of things seems to be disturbed and, although the earth struggles to maintain its rhythm, we seem to work more and more against it. That’s why I love this time of year. I love it because we have Harvest Festival. We have the Harvest Moon and we have the Equinox so, even if you are not religious, you can still see it in the sky as the Moon becomes big and the nights draw in. This Moon can be seen anywhere in the world at exactly the same time, so we are all gazing on its glory together. It’s an amazing thought, don’t you think? The Harvest Moon was on the 24th September and it’s called that because of its luminosity which allows farmers to work late at night (before tractors had headlights!).
By the way, for the curious amongst you, Equinox means Equi – Equal and Nox – Night. Although in fact we are a few minutes shy of an equal night and day.
The Harvest is celebrated everywhere and no more so than China where they call it the Moon Festival and have parties with the most delicious moon cakes, which are made of bean paste, a little like the aduki bean sweet pudding in one of my books.
The Harvest Festival may have past, but our next Pagan tradition is the celebration of ghosts. I know everyone squeals with delight over Hallowe’en, but I approach it with a certain amount of terror, or at least anxiety. I love the pumpkins in the shops, I like eating them and making faces with them, putting lights inside them and watching them glow.
However, the trick or treating, the banging on the door not knowing who or what’s on the other side and the dressing up in monstrously scary outfits, while demanding sweets, cakes or money, is something my rather old-fashioned brain can’t get its head around.
Anyway, Hallowe’en marks the end of the Summer and the Harvest, which I adore. I brace myself for the cold winter nights ahead. Hallowe’en was really to ward off ghosts as the Celts believed that on the 31st the dead would return and spook everyone. Nowadays, no-one waits for the ghosts to spook them, they go out and do it themselves!
So how can we make the most of these months and feel more in harmony with the earth. I love picking apples, which are ripe and ready in September/October. From apples you can make a million lovely sweet dishes and even add a bit of excitement to a savoury one.
If you have a dehydrator, cinnamon apple slices are fabulous. Or peel and chop the apples in squares and place in a saucepan ¼ filled with water, add cinnamon, ginger and raisins and bring to the boil. If they are cooking apples it does not take very long, maybe 10-15 mins to make into a nice stew which can be used for crumble, pie, strudel and other delicious dishes.
If you are a bit confused about which vegetables you should be eating in the next couple of months, here are the seasonal fruit & veg for October.
Apples, Elderberries , Pears, Quince, Artichoke, Beetroot, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash, Cabbage – White, Savoy, Spring Green & Red – Carrots, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Fennel, Garlic, Horseradish, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Marrows, Parsnips, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Rocket, Runner Beans, Shallots, Spinach, Squash, Swede, Sweetcorn, Turnip, Watercress, Wild Mushrooms, Chestnuts, Chives, Cobnuts, Curly Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Sorrel, Thyme.