September contents: The joy of seasonal eating....."To everything there is a season"..... A Local 'Apple a Day' - is that realistic?.... Storing rich history!..... Why can't we buy a variety of fresh, local apples in shops - now and all year round?..... The fruits of memory..... It's time to order new apples and other tree fruits now!
The joy of seasonal eating -"To everything there is a season". - Autumn is such a gloriously fruitful season, full of Nature's abundant riches...."Mellow fruitfulness" to quote the poet - surrounds us everywhere!
People often ask me "Why on earth do you grow so many varieties of apples?" - My reply is that every year is different - and every apple variety is different too. A variety that does well one year, may not do so well in another due to the weather when they are flowering, or developing their small fruitlets later. The new orchard, which I started planting four years ago, is also my insurance and investment for the future, as the old orchard on the other side of the property often gets hormone weedkiller spray drift in spring from my lovely chemical farmer neighbour - which causes all the flowers on the trees to abort and drop off before they flower in March and April. So hopefully having the two orchards on opposite sides of my 5 acres will ensure that I get a decent amount of apple each year - and apples are one fruit that I simply can't be without, having grown up among wonderful orchards. This year due to the hot, dry weather in June many of the young trees in the new orchard either dropped their developing fruits - or 'set' their skins and split them later. But the 35 year old trees, with far deeper roots, have still produced a decent enough crop. The normal 'June Drop' as it is known, sadly became a July drop as well on the younger trees - but I was determined not to water them, as they have to adapt and develop the root system they need to forage for themselves. That way they will be far hardier and more self-sustaining in the long run. It takes a few years for a new orchard to settle down - and next year we will hopefully get a better crop, as the hot weather also acted as a natural growth inhibitor and will have ripened the fruiting wood early - which will encourage flower and fruit production.
Nowadays the only apples available in supermarkets are almost without exception tough-skinned, tasteless, sugary sweet varieties like Gala or Pink Lady. These bear so little resemblance to the apples I grew up eating from our own orchard that they might as well have been grown on the moon! And frankly most taste like they have been! Primarily this has a lot to do with new breeding programmes, often in the USA, and promotion of patented varieties - which I won't go into here or you'd be reading this for a month! They're bred for high production, uniformity of shape, disease-resistance and consumer 'eye appeal' - but rarely for flavour! Very few have the complex, aromatic flavours and character of the older varieties - or even some of the newer, less popular ones. Even Braeburn, a relatively new, tasty variety from New Zealand, has very little flavour when grown non-organically, picked immature before properly ripe, to meet supermarket specifications, then stored for months or even years in climate-controlled warehouses in an almost cryogenic-like suspension!
Another complaint is about about apples being stored. People want them fresh-picked and local all year round - an unrealistic expectation that shows just how far removed many are now from understanding food plants as our ancestors did. All year round availability of everything has destroyed so much valuable knowledge of seasonal food. Apples have been stored since humans first discovered that they could be - and there's archaeological evidence of that at least 10,000 years old. Animals have also always stored apples and other fruit for the winter - and since we're basically animals, we've probably always done that too! There are literally thousands of varieties of apples suitable for growing in various parts of the UK, with fruit that can be picked from July to the end of October and stored, or which have to be eaten immediately. Later maturing varieties of apples have to be stored in order to preserve them. Many varieties that are picked in late October go on developing slowly in storage and are only at their best after Christmas or even later.