Harvest time is a wonderful season in the county of Kent. It’s not called the ‘Garden of England’ for nothing you know. We have a very long tradition of apple and fruit growing, hop cultivation as well as other species such as the Kentish cobnut, lavender, grapes etc. Although the West Country always seems to be heralded as the cider making part of Britain, Kent apples make very good cider too, and again we have a long tradition of that.
Of course the main harvests are grain – wheat, barley and oats but also huge fields of rape seed and flax (linseed), both of which make extremely nutritious oils. To see a field of flax growing is wonderful – from a distance the field is swathed in a beautiful dusky pale blue.
Then contrast that with the bright yellow of rape seed and you have a wonderful patchwork of fields. The colours brighten your mood and even on the most dismal of days can impart hope and joy.
Hops is another fruitful harvest of Kent and there are more to hops than just for making beer (although Kent is famous for its beers and real ales, and very nice they are too). Hops (the female strobiles) promote sleep and are often used in sleep pillows. Hop shoots can also be eaten or made into hop cookies. Hop bines (fronds) also make wonderful decorations. Hops were considered a delicacy by the Romans and medieval monks used them for their medicinal properties. Hops are harvested in the first few weeks of September and hop-picking has always been a traditional holiday past time, with whole families coming to Kent from London to share in the harvest.
Another harvest that is traditional to Kent is the cobnut. A cobnut is a cultivated variety of hazelnut and sometimes known as filberts. They came to be known as cobnuts in Kent because in the 16th century children played an early version of ‘conkers’ with hazelnuts and the game was called cobblenut, the winning nut being called ‘the cob’. In Victorian times, Kent cobnuts were considered a delicacy. The harvest starts in August and the nuts are usually picked green from the trees because of their better, more creamier flavour. As the cobnut ripens and becomes browner, the flavour increases and becomes more ‘nutty’.
Kent is also patchworked with orchards of all kinds – from apples to pears, cherries, grapes and softer fruits such as strawberries and raspberries, but it is apples and pears we are most renowned for. In fact, Kent is honoured to be home to the National Fruit Collection of Britain at Brogdale Farm. There are many farms who still make cider – a real scrumpers cider – very strong!
Yes, even in this day and age of commercial farming and imports, Kent is still alive and kicking as the Garden of England, and harvest time in this county is beautiful and exciting. It is truly a time to give thanks to the Goddess for all her fruitful blessings.