Caught by the River

A time of apples and mushrooms

Diva Harris | 29th September 2022

Caught by the River editor Diva Harris delights in the autumnal abundance of Dartmoor.

I could not have found myself folded into Dartmoor’s mist at a better time; the moor spilling abundance in our laps just when it felt like the fabric of everything was wearing thin. 

It is a time of mushrooms: fly agarics hiding in the hedges, baskets of stumbled-upon penny buns, dried next to nettle seed and hedge-foraged tea in Ben’s sister’s kitchen, and wide, meaty umbrellas of field mushroom harvested from just outside the gate — briefly wiped before being chopped and swirled in speckled enamel with butter, garlic, salt, pepper, a smudge of cream cheese and a squeeze of lemon, and heaped, steaming, onto toast. Later, in the market, the gift of a wooden mushroom lovingly pressed into my hand by Ben’s mother; better than my chipped-up one which counterproductively snags at the stitches, and a tool of proactivity, reinforcement, which wears the pockmarks and pinholes of mends and menders past.

It is also a time of apples — boxes and boxes and boxes of apples, their sweet, earthy breath hanging in the staircase as they wait to be transformed into apple juice, apple jelly, apple syrup, apple rings, apple cider vinegar, apple cake, person-snack apples and horse-snack apples and just about anything else you can imagine an apple could be.

On Sunday I picked one from the orchard, split it with a borrowed penknife, and offered it around in honeyed crescents, quietly willing a sweet 5783. And that’s just the thing, isn’t it: where on earth is the joy in abundance, if not in the sharing?