SUMMER, such as it has been, is now over and autumn is with us. While it’s sad to wave goodbye to the warmer weather and longer days, autumn does have its compensations.
It brings with it a host of new and exciting foodie possibilities. It’s the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” as famously depicted by the poet John Keats in his Ode to Autumn.
The bright berries and salads of summer are giving way to deep green, orange, brown and russet hues and a plethora of new and exciting fruits and vegetables.
Parsnips, turnips and swedes, apples, pears, pumpkins, winter squash, cranberries, figs, nuts and, of course, fungi, are all starting to come into their own.
Flavours are earthier and cooking – in line with our desire to start wrapping up in jumpers and coats – gets a bit cosier too.
Menus at the region’s National Trust properties are changing to reflect the new season. Expect to find warming soups and pies as the weather turns cooler and fruity autumn inspired cakes and desserts.
The Trust will be hosting a variety of foodie events in the coming month not just to celebrate the arrival of autumn, but to help people make the most of the new culinary season.
One of the biggest will be the Wallington Food and Craft Festival. Preparing to make its seventh outing, last year the two-day event attracted more than 20,000 visitors.
This year’s on October 20-21 is set to be the biggest yet with more than 80 local producers descending on the estate at Cambo. Food lovers can expect to be spoilt for choice with everything from cakes and gourmet pies to jams, free-range poultry, game, sausages and gourmet snacks on the menu as Wallington serves up a gastronomic and arty celebration in support of the area’s artisans.
There will even be an autumn children’s food trail around the grounds. Fungi is likely to be high on the list of finds. Autumn is prime fungi time and if you know where to look there are scores of different types ready for picking, cooking and eating. And best of all, they’re free.
People can be nervous, however, about heading out on a fungi foray on their own. Most know what a mushroom looks like, but are less familiar with other types of fungi.
Eating the wrong type can lead to an upset stomach at best or be fatal at worst. But once you know what you’re looking for, foraging for fungi opens up a whole new world of tasty gastronomic options.
Both Gibside near Rowlands Gill and Wallington have events on in the coming month aimed at making wild food identification easier and safer.
Gibside’s Fungi Foray and Feast takes places this Sunday and includes a ramble around the property’s wild mushroom hotspots in the company of National Trust warden and wildlife expert Phil Younger.
Not only will you find out about what’s edible and what’s not, but you’ll have the chance to eat the fruits of your morning’s labours at a post-foraging barbecue.
Wallington has a similar event on at the end of October hosted by foraging expert Rob Caton, who will be scouring the woods for seasonal wild food of all kinds and offering tips on how to make the best culinary use of nature’s free bounty.
Of course, autumn is apple time. It’s no coincidence that Apple Day is held every October, and the National Trust will be celebrating this UK-wide event which, among other things, promotes the fruit’s variety and richness.
Apple Day is always held on October 21, which this year happens to be a Sunday. Both Cragside and Washington Old Hall will be holding special events with tastings and demonstrations.
At Cragside there will be more than 40 apple varieties to learn about – and you might even get the chance to accomplish suggestion nine on the Trust’s list of 50 things to do before you’re 11¾.
The campaign launched in April is encouraging families to make more of the outdoors and enjoy classic childhood adventures like skimming a stone, building a den and eating an apple straight from a tree – something surprisingly few people have experienced these days.
Also on the list at number 10 is playing conkers and at 21, eating blackberries growing in the wild.
Gibside is holding its apple weekend on October 13-14 with cider tasting, juicing and games like apple bobbing. The estate’s walled garden is home to many historic apple varieties like Brownlees Russet and Early Victoria.
Cider-making will be the order of the day at Washington Old Hall on October 7. Participants will have the chance to make and taste cider using foraged apples.
Always a popular event, bookings must be made in advance with tickets costing £10.
To find out more about what’s happening at National Trust properties across the North East go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
NATIONAL TRUST AUTUMN FOODIE EVENTS
Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland, NE65 7PX, 01669 620333.
October 21: Apple Day, 10am-5pm. See a selection of more than 40 apple varieties displayed in the Orchard House and enjoy delicious apple recipes in the tearooms. Free event. Normal admission applies.
Gibside, Rowlands Gill, Burnopfield, Gateshead, NE16 6BG, 01207 541820.
September 30: Fungi Foray and Feast, 11am-1pm. A ramble around property’s wild mushroom hotspots learning what’s edible and what’s not with expert Phil Younger before a barbecue feast with fungi finds. £13.50 per person. Booking essential on 01207 541 820.
October 6 and 20: Gibside Farmers’ Market, 10am-3pm. Seasonal foods and quality crafts. Held on the first and third Saturday of every month. Free entry.
October 13-14: Apple Weekend, 11am-3pm. Celebrate Gibside’s historic apple trees with apples and cider tasting, juicing and bobbing. Free event, normal admission applies.
October 26: Hallowe’en Hog Roast, 6pm-9pm. Enjoy all the usual Friday night Gibside Beer Garden treats plus roast pork, live music and a Hallowe’en fancy dress competition for terrifying adults and boys and ghouls.
Wallington, Cambo, near Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 4AR, 01670 773600.
October 20-21: Wallington Food and Craft Festival, 10am-5pm. More than 80 stalls of local produce along with demos and children’s activities. Reduced admission charges for weekend – £4 for adults, children go free.
October 28: Wild Walk at Wallington – Foraging with Wild Harmony, 10am-4pm. Join wild food expert Rob Caton on a guided walk looking for seasonal wild food and learning how to use it. Adult, £15; child, £7.50 (age 10+); family, £35 (two adults and two children). Booking essential on 01670 773 963.
Washington Old Hall, The Avenue, Washington Village, Washington, NE38 7LE, 0191 416 6879,
October 7: Cider-making, 1pm-4pm. Demo and tasting of homemade cider using foraged apples. Information and techniques on making fruit liqueurs. Tickets £10. To book call on 0191 416 6879.
October 21: National Apple Day, 11am-4pm. Apple crafts, tastings and demos. Small charge may apply for crafts.
For details of events visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk