By Ash Alder
September is the golden hour of summer.
Soon, the squash blossoms will disappear. Ditto fresh okra, watermelon, sweet corn and roadside stands. The crickets will grow silent, and the black walnut will stand naked against a crisp winter sky.
But right now, in this moment, everything feels soft, dreamy, light.
In the meadow, goldenrod glows brilliant among Joe-Pye and wild carrot.
In the garden, goldfinches light upon the feeder, swallowtails dance between milkweed and aster, and just beyond the woodland path, the hive hums heavy.
September is raw honey on the tongue.
I think of my Devon Park rental, retrieving the old push mower from the woodshed and discovering a colony of honeybees busy beneath the creaky floorboard. In the space between the floor joists: 40 pounds of liquid gold. Gratitude arrives with the scent of ginger lilies. I exhale thanks to the apiarist for transporting the bees to his own backyard — and for leaving just a taste of their honey for me.
September is master of subtly. Satiety following an electric kiss; anticipation for the next one. Delight in this golden hour, this taste of sweet nectar, this gentle reminder to be here now.
Yes, the time has come. If you’re lucky enough to have one or more pecan trees growing in your backyard, then you know that the earliest nuts fall in September. And those who are lucky enough to know the ecstasy of homemade pecan pie will tell you that the efforts of the harvest are worth it. Or just ask one of the neighborhood squirrels.
Here’s a trick. If you’re wondering whether a pecan is fit to crack, try shaking a couple of them in the palms of your hands first. Listen. Do they rattle? Likely no good. Full pecans sound solid, but the way to develop an ear is trial and error. You’ll catch on.
And in the spirit of Mabon, the pagan celebration of the autumnal equinox, consider offering libations to the mighty pecan tree. My bet is they’ll relish your homemade mead as much as any of us.
Sweet and Good
September is National Honey Month. According to the National Honey Board (exactly what it sounds like: a group dedicated to educating consumers about the benefits and uses of all things you-know-what), the average honeybee produces 1 1/2 teaspoons of honey over the course of its entire life. Here’s another nugget that might surprise you: A typical hive can produce between 30 to 100 pounds of honey a year. To produce just one pound, a colony must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers. Think about that the next time you hold in your hands a jar of this pure, raw blessing.
Wish to make mead? Honey, water, yeast and patience.
But if pudding sounds more like your bag, here’s a recipe from the National Honey Board:
Honey Chia Seed Pudding
Yield: 4 servings
2 cups coconut milk
6 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey
Combine coconut milk, chia seeds, vanilla and honey in a medium bowl. Mix well until the honey has dissolved. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
Stir well and divide the pudding into individual portions.
Serve with fresh berries. Add granola, if desired.
(I recommend adding a few organic cacao nibs too.)
As the Wheel Turns
The autumnal equinox occurs on Saturday, Sept. 22, just two days before the full Harvest Moon. Speaking of, if you’re gardening by the moon, plant annual flowers (pansies, violets, snapdragons and mums) and mustard greens during the waxing moon (Sept. 9–21). Onion, radish, turnip, and other vegetables that bear crops underground should be planted during the dark (aka waning) moon. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, old-time farmers swear this makes for a larger, tastier harvest.