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Reaping the Bounties of Autumn

by Barbara Payne(more info)

listed in aromatherapy, originally published in issue 117 - November 2005

Almost 40 years ago I cut a small apple into two and gave each of my children one half. The eldest, who was five years-old at the time, wanted to plant a pippin. Two pips were planted, one by each of them. Throughout the years the birds have found safety and we have found shade from the resultant trees. Teatime picnics, eating al fresco and many celebrations, including wedding photographs have been centred around them. The wisteria has a wonderful living stake on which to lean and the most spectacular show of apple blossom the trees give every May has been something all the family savour. What a lot of happiness and comfort has been reaped from those two little pips.

Autumn is the time to harvest the apples and at 42 now, my eldest daughter enjoys making delicious pies and other produce from the crop of 'her' tree. We find the aroma so uplifting, but then the aromas of most fruits are. Apples though are not the only 'fruits' that can be utilized in this traditional time of harvest.

Many of the herbs which were dried earlier in the year and seeds currently waiting to be picked can be utilized to make home-life more comfortable in the days that are shortening and becoming cooler. Fruits and berries render a delight to the eyes through their rich colours of yellow, orange, maroon and bronze, which can be mellow or bright depending on the species of plant. The smells and tastes of the season are unsurpassed. It is believed almost 90% of the delicious tastes are detected through the olfactory system.

Yes, autumn can be wonderful if we take time to appreciate it.

These things aside, what other pleasures can we experience in the garden in autumn? Who of you have not marvelled at the intricate spider's webs frozen up with 'diamonds' of the first frost? I am careful which herbs are cut down in autumn because on one occasion I discovered ten ladybirds settling in for the winter inside one leaf of iris.

What can we do to make more of Autumn?

First look around you. See what is available. What you make is dependant on what you have. If you do not own a fruit tree why not plant a small one? As new gardens have become smaller, so too have new varieties of dwarf trees. There are even 'patio' varieties of fruit trees now. Next look in books about herbs or fruits and adapt some of the ideas to what you have.

You may have flowers and leaves which can be dried or pressed. You may like to make preserves or have a baking day. Baking freezes too. I used to spin my own wool and make a beautiful pale lilac dye from the juice of blackberries!

Here are a few more ideas.

Mint and Juniper-berry Foot Soak

• Ingredients:
• 100 grams of dried juniper berries
• 2 large stalks of apple mint (Mentha suaveolens)
• 1 pint of water

Boil the ingredients for approximately ten minutes and then turn off the heat. When cool, strain and store in a bottle in the fridge. The liquid should be black. Use about one tablespoon of the mixture in a bowl with warm water to soak the feet. If kept in the refrigerator, the foot soak mixture will keep for about one month. Dried juniper berries can be bought from health food stores. Any mint can be interchanged with the apple mint.

Citrus-Fruit Face Scrub

Cut discarded peel from any citrus fruit into small pieces. Place in a brown paper bag and leave somewhere warm. When the rind is dry, grind the pieces in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. This should produce rough grain-like particles. Use these with a little water to exfoliate the skin. When the orange grains mix with the water they reconstitute and, therefore, do not scratch the skin but will remove old tired skin cells. The smell too is elevating.

Fennel and Chamomile Eye Cooler

• Ingredients:
• 1 large sprig of chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) or 2 chamomile teabags.
• 1 teaspoon of fresh fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare var dulce) or 1/2 teaspoon of dried fennel seeds
• 1 pint of water

Boil the ingredients together. Turn off the heat. When cool pour into ice cube trays.

Chamomile has ophthalmic and anti-inflammatory properties. Fennel has been used traditionally for centuries for soothing the eyes. The ice cubes are very useful to cool the eyes when inflamed or tired, for instance after bonfire night when smoke has got into the eyes.

Sadly, earlier this year one of our apple trees had to be felled due to disease. We now have a small Victoria plum tree near to the spot where the apple tree was. We have been amazed at the extraordinary growth of other plants including the herbs, due to the increased light in the garden. So although our garden recipes and products will change slightly I look upon the change with renewed vigour in this season of nature's generosity.

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About Barbara Payne

Barbara Payne taught clinical aromatherapy in various hospitals in the North of England, for School of Health, University of Hull, and was principal of an IFA and IFPA accredited college of clinical aromatherapy, for many years. She served as an inspector and examiner and was Chair of Education for the ISPA, (now IFPA). Barbara had regular interviews with BBC radio and appeared on national television occasionally and lectured annually for the RHS. Having contributed to Positive Health over many years, Barbara has now decided to retire from her PH Expert Regular Column after Issue 154 in Jan 2009. She can be reached on Tel: 01482 835358; barbara@payne56.karoo.co.uk

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