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Continuing on from last weeks harvesting theme, there were great celebrations, in the past, when the last sheaf was cut. The last sheaf was called a maiden if the harvest was early and the cailleach if it was late. There was a variety of customs associated with this important sheaf. Often it was dressed like a maiden with ribbons and finery and took pride of place at the Clyach or little winter feast, held to celebrate the completion of the cutting and before the Kirn, and toasts were drunk to her. Part of the sheaf, a fertility symbol, was kept until the first horse was foaled as it was thought to represent new life, and another part might be buried beneath the first furrow ploughed so that the fertility might be transferred. The hairst is a reminder that oatmeal was an essential part of the Scottish diet in days of auld langsyne. Oatmeal was used in a variety of recipes including desserts - cranachan is a lovely way to enjoy oatmeal and raspberries.


This is a cream crowdie, made from toasting 2 heaped tablespoons oatmeal lightly, then mixing it into 1/2 pint cream which has been whipped until frothy, but not stiff, and sweetened to taste. It can be flavoured with rum, vanilla ( vanilla sugar can be used for sweetening ) or 1 cup fresh raspberries ( or other soft fruit ), and makes an excellent dessert. Vanilla ice-cream can be used instead of cream. (serves 4)

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