Autumn chanson

As we are proceeding in autumn, the scenery puts on more and more red and pink shades, darkness starts earlier and mornings turn cooler and cooler. Pumpkins and gourds have already appeared on greengrocers’ stands, and flower seller old women offer asters and rosehips. Deciduous plants have started their annual purifying cure, getting rid of their leaves. Chestnuts are falling, which is excellent material for making amorphous toy horses.

Green, yellow and red

Schiffer Villa üvegablak kartonja II. (Ősz) (1911) - MODEM, dr. Antal Péter, CC BY-NC-ND

The browning of green leaves is caused by the adaptation to the cyclicity of seasons: colder weather signals to plants that it is time to change. Trees drop their leaves mainly in order to spare fluids and so that leaves would not evaporate during the winter indigence when it is more difficult to take up water from the frozen soil. Besides that, it is a kind of purification, a metabolic process at the same time: the tree shakes off superfluous mineral salts and harmful materials. All this we can see as a spectacular sight and we are glad to take walks, and even feel temptation to jump into colourful fallen leaves.

In the forests of the northern hemisphere, trees flash in different colours in each continent. In Europe, tree crowns turn yellow typically, while red leaves dominate in North America and East Asia. The reason is that chlorophyll ensuring green colour dissolves and its place is taken over by xanthophyll that provides yellow colour. However, the American and Asian trees, not living on such a fortunate terrain, had developed a strategy against insects and painted their leaves red by producing anthocyanin that scares off pests.

Preparing for winter

Gereblye (1965) - Balatoni Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDNot so long ago, in our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ era, this was the time to start preparations for winter. The plants that were grown for their seeds used to be harvested in September and October because they ripened then. For example, the corn used to be husked during the night of the harvest. It happened in the frame of a pleasant social event, when people talked, told stories, sang songs; they ate plum pie and grapes and drank hard liquor and wine. Lads and lasses had jokes with one another: they made moustaches out of floss and puppets out of cornhusk. The red corncob was very rare, it meant wedding in the near future to its finder. If a lad stole it from a lass, she could take it out only for a kiss.

If it is autumn, it is the time of grape harvest. The most typical autumn activity is the grape harvesting and winemaking. A month later on the day of Saint Martin, you can already taste the new wine. Grape harvesting was also a very important festivity in the life of a village or a community, when the family, friends and acquaintances gathered. Picking grapes was considered a cosy activity, with cooking, baking and drinking hard liquor. Work went on even in the evening because the harvested grapes had to be ground.

Óriás krumpli, Ausztrália (1970) - Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-ND

In September and October, the harvest of potatoes, sunflowers and sugar beets, the autumnal ploughing and sowing become due as well. The seeds sown in fall can take up necessary humidity from the soil and start germinating at the end of winter. Certain vegetables can strike roots this year but start growing only next spring. These are important for growers, who would like to obtain vegetables (parsley roots and onions for example) as soon as possible next year.

Nowadays, the above-mentioned folk habits are far from us, though the grape harvest is very much in fashion, but we usually buy corns in cans. Let’s enjoy the seasonal raw materials and eat pumpkin, roasted sweet chestnuts and fresh walnuts. Besides roaming and admiring deciduous trees and collecting crops, let’s look at the autumn-thematic images of the database: from paintings in wonderful warm colours to archive photos recording folk traditions. We wish you a pleasant (virtual) autumn walk!

TEJ

Translated by Zita Aknai

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