Yesterday was our festival of First Fruits; halfway between summer solstice and autumn equinox. In the old Celtic calendar, this was Lugnasad, in honour of Lugh the grain god. Later it became Lammas, when loaves made from the first corn were brought into the churches for blessing.
A Maori proverb about this season recognises its significance: Kua makura te kai; ka kai te tangata i nga kai hou o te tau: Fruits have now set and people eat the first fruits of the year. (Fruits in this context refers to all produce).
Out at the bach I gathered in a more meagre harvest than expected. One courgette had been missed and had turned into a marrow, leaving the plant depleted and limp. The promising tomato crop had diminished to a few fruits.
And this is why. Despite all the rain, the soil is dry, parched by the constant winds. And so I carried bucket after bucket of water to my poor struggling beans, tomatoes and pumpkins. The other aspect of First Fruits here in Aotearoa New Zealand is Te Waru. For Maori, this was a lean season, for although berries were ripening in the bush, they were not very filling. The kumara crop was not yet ready to harvest and the stored bounty of the year before was running low. Te Waru means ‘the lean time.’
I’m hoping the garden will revive after its long drink.
The oak-leaf lettuces are frilling out and looking happy,
and one butternut plant has produced.
Tucked in among the leaves, I found a few more beans. Enough for a small feast. Even when the crop is not fulfilling its full promise, fresh food from the garden tastes the best.
Finding the wellspring within: that is the task for Te Waru.