Stephen Jardine: Time to celebrate a bumper harvest

'My breakfast treat is a bowl of blueberries'. Picture: PA
'My breakfast treat is a bowl of blueberries'. Picture: PA
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THE summer that seemed like it would never end is about to do just that. Officially we have a couple of weeks left, but the Met Office measures the season to the last day of August, so it all stops here.

But what as summer it has been. Just when we all thought long sunny days were a thing of the past, along comes a bumper year to keep everyone happy.

For our farmers, it’s been welcome relief after several miserable summers and a particularly grim winter.

One Perthshire farmer told me he’d been seriously considering switching professions after last winter, but this summer has reminded him of why he loves the life he leads.

The long, sunny days have allowed him to make hay for the first time in years and he’s looking to the autumn with renewed enthusiasm.

The misery of waterlogged crops, unable to ripen in the grey drizzle, has been a sharp contrast to this year’s great weather and the proof is in the produce.

In July, sales of Scotty Brand strawberries were three times the level of last year with higher than normal consumer demand due to the sunshine.

It’s not just the quantity but the quality, too.

My breakfast treat is a bowl of blueberries. Most of the year they come from North Africa or Spain, but for the last few weeks the Scottish crop has been in the shop. They are absolutely delicious. Having savoured these little blue sunbursts of flavour, it’s going to be really hard to go back to their shrivelled Mediterranean cousins.

Pears, apricots and apples are also at their best, with some reports of yields up 50 per cent on last year. The cherry crop is three times what it was last summer, with average sizes also greater.

The quality and abundance is being put down to a cool spring which meant fruit grew slowly and then a good spell of sustained sunshine that increased sugar levels, creating sweeter fruit.

Whatever the reason, we haven’t had it this good for a long time. And the best may be yet to come, because we still have the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness to look forward to.

Tomorrow marks the start of native oyster season. If August 12th is a big day for the game season, September 1st is the shellfish lovers look forward to most. The letter “r” in the month indicates the spawning season is over and plump, firm natives are back on the menu.

On the land, the hedgerows are groaning under the weight of beautiful brambles and they, too, promise to be extra-sweet this year. Down below, the first mushrooms are emerging from the soil, preparing for their autumn peak.

As harvest-time goes, this is one to remember, and the perfect setting for Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight which kicks off next weekend.

This year, more than most, our national festival of food and drink really has something to celebrate.