Your eyes are not deceiving you - this is a strawberry, ripe, in October. I tore out the fruit patch, but the strawberries have spread around the rest of the garden. They're covered with flowers.
I had labelled this as a 'German Orange Strawberry', but I was suspicious when the fruits started forming. Its identity is now secure - 'Black Cherry'.
The heat has gone, and autumn has returned. But autumn means different things to different people, and varies a lot by location, so what do I mean by that?
Well, I live near the coast, as I may have mentioned in the past. That means it is, at all times of year, less extreme in temperature, but more so in wind, than much of the country. Autumn does not mean clear light, crisp mornings, the first frosts. No, it is more a matter of regular storms, lots of rain, and only slightly lower temperatures than the season preceding it. This year's heatwave was brief and exceptional - early September was much more typical. This blasts the leaves off the trees, brown, and turns them to mush underfoot, treacherous and unlovely. There's not much yellow, gold, red, on the trees - they don't get the chance, for one thing, nor is it hot or dry enough here in the average summer to promote the bright colours' formation in the first place.
The herbaceous plants - the shrubs, vegetables, annuals - continue, a little slower, shaggier, tireder, but little changed from July and August. My Cosmos plants have finally started flowering in earnest - they spent the summer growing to five or six feet, monsters that overfilled the space I'd allotted them. The Calendula, also grown from seed, are having a marvellous time - they've filled the garden with gold and shocking yellows and oranges for months now, and hopefully will self-sow profusely. Verbena bonariensis, which grows of its own accord every year - each time in different locations - is doing its lovely thing. The same goes for the tomatoes, beans, and pumpkins, which are all blissfully unaware of the oncoming darkness and cold. But frosts here come late, and are infrequent - I've had tomatoes fruiting outdoors well into November the past two years, although they look rather forlorn by that point. So I am not worried about the winter just yet - like the plants, I can afford to pretend everything's going on as before, though the early, more sudden, sunsets are rather cutting off my options for outdoor work in the evenings now.
Totals for week 1st-7th October:
1st: 32g chard, 10g pumpkin flowers (day total: 42g)
3rd: 139g tomatoes (comprising 3 'Jaune Flammée' at 94g, 1 'Summer Cider' at 45g)
4th: 17g runner beans, 32g strawberries, 1.01kg tomatoes (comprising 2 'Super Marmande' at 107g, 1 'Summer Cider' at 117g, 1 'Costoluto Fiorentino' at 35g, 2 'Great White' at 11g, 2 'Snowberry' at 11g, 11 'Sun Belle' at 54g, 12 'Gardener's Delight' at 80g, 6 'Sub Arctic Plenty' at 67g, 2 'Cream Sausage' at 43g, 5 'Green Zebra' at 126g, 11 'Black Cherry' at 115g, 8 'Jaune Flammée' at 244g; day total: 1.059kg)
7th: 1.341kg tomatoes (comprising 5 'Green Zebra' at 223g, 1 'Summer Cider' at 61g, 6 'Cream Sausage' at 174g, 7 'Jaune Flammée' at 211g, 6 'Sub Arctic Plenty' at 154g, 4 'Snowberry' at 23g, 17 'Sun Belle' at 55g, 13 'Gardener's Delight' at 77g, 3 'Costoluto Fiorentino' at 47g, 4 'Super Marmande' at 131g, 3 'Great White' at 185g)
Total for week: 2.581kg
Year to date total: 29.664kg
A lot of tomatoes! If I have just one day harvesting a dozen varieties of tomato in the whole year, I will have achieved a major part of what I wanted. I now have an ongoing dilemma - do I gather in all the remaining unripe fruit, and hope to get them to colour up indoors, or do I rely on the continuing mild weather, and occasional sunshine, to do it for me? I think a bit of both; some plants look very tired, and need to be laid to rest on the compost heap, while others look as fresh as they did in June. I also need to start planning my overwintering vegetables - the onions I sowed are doing well; I will order garlic sets, and sow broad beans and peas to put out in November.