A drive through Auckland's central avenues sees leaves still clinging tight to the trees.
Now is when those last events of the season rapidly occur. Although it has felt like a long summer, the hot days are finally leaving, cold nights have clamped down upon us and growth in my herb bed seems to have slowed.
A cardigan-cool May is a lovely thing, hinting slyly at the chill of winter. Now -while I sit wrapped up with the French doors open to the garden, feet still bare - is when I feel most romantic about hot bowls of creamy pumpkin soup and winter jackets.
It is not just my pre-occupation with our new baby that is making gardening difficult. The odd, roasting-hot day interspersed with days of torrential rain are making it easier to stay inside, too.
In Auckland in autumn, there is little rhyme or reason to the day's weather; the chervil has wilted in the heat, but the new lawn is flourishing. I
have a whole garden to plant before the end of the month, and that sinking feeling that I should have got a wriggle on about eight weeks ago.
My other favourite thing about this time of year is stewed fruit - it is just cool enough to warrant a big dollop of warm fruit for breakfast or pudding.
The eternal favourite is the ruby stems of rhubarb. Rhubarb, technically a vegetable, is the first "fruit" to turn to after the berries have finished. It is a hole-plugger for any home baker with a penchant for fruity treats.
Rhubarb is also ridiculously quick to stew.Chop into a pot with a smidgen of water and a good dollop of honey or sugar, boil for about five minutes and serve.
By the time the porridge is smooth and creamy, the rhubarb will be soft and falling apart into long sloppy strands. Chop rhubarb into crumbles, pies or homemade apple sauce to serve with pork.
My oven-stewed rhubarb recipe takes longer, but keeps the stalk shape and creates a warm and spicy sauce. A weekend indulgence that makes use of the first New Zealand oranges.
If you add a little whipped cream there isn't anything better than homemade crumpets with hot sweet and spicy rhubarb.
Much more romantic than my dreams of a bowl of hot soup.
- Sunday Star Times
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