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!

Basket of mid-September windfalls shows  the diversity of some of the over 60 varieties of apples just starting to ripen here
The season of harvests! Windfall apples showing the amazing diversity of some of the many varieties of apples here


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!

As the seasons go round, they're punctuated by many firsts and lasts - some joys and also perhaps some regrets. But I have always been of the opinion that eating in tune with the seasons re-awakens our taste buds with each fresh delight - making us truly appreciate our food in a way that year-round availability of everything never can. Seasonal eating is the way that Nature evolved us to eat, really tasting and savouring every precious, perfectly-ripe mouthful while it is at it's most nutritious best.  Being able to eat anything in it's proper season is one of life's most enriching experiences, and one of the greatest benefits of growing your own fruit and vegetables. 
The height of summer gluts may be over and early autumn already here - but there's still an abundance of fruit in the garden, with apples and other tree fruits to pick and store for the winter - and also much soft fruit both outside and in the tunnels. There are plenty of autumn raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cape gooseberries, grapes, and figs again this year. In the polytunnel most of these will crop for far longer than they would outside. In the tunnel they're also less at risk from the weather and they're more protected from birds - which naturally have the urge to gorge on fruit in order to store up as much energy as possible for the lean winter months ahead. Some fruits such as melons have such a brief season compared to many other fruits - but that makes them all the more longed for and valued for it!  
I get enormous satisfaction from knowing that the food we eat here is grown completely without chemicals or using peat, and without harming anything else that we share this planet with.  I truly appreciate the multi-dimensional effort that Nature puts in - the bees, other pollinators and the multitude of biodiversity both above and below ground which make all of our food possible. There's a lot of talk about 'Food Empathy' lately and I'm not exactly sure what that actually means to some people.  To me real food empathy is appreciating all of the incredibly complex biodiversity that we share this earth with, and to do as little as possible to disrupt Nature's intricately evolved food chains which in reality contribute to our food.  It also means eating with the seasons - and that is even more rewarding when we have the huge satisfaction of growing it organically ourselves!  
A Local 'Apple a Day' - is that realistic given their Seasonal Nature?... It could be!
Very few people now seem to be strict about seasonal eating, which I prefer - unlike our forebears who had little choice but to eat what was available at the time!  Along with that though there is an increasing awareness of the nutritional, logistical, environmental and aesthetic problems of fruit and vegetable storage.  The early picking, denaturing post-harvest treatments and long storage, often before being flown halfway across the world, means that even most organically-grown ones are nutritionally depleted to start with - but it also means that they're virtually tasteless!  I've seen many articles on this topic recently - on apples in particular - probably because it's the season for them. All year round consumption of imported, out of season, denatured, environmentally destructive, and chemically-grown apples is not for me. Or even organically grown ones come to that -  if they're flown in from all over the world! 
Apples imported from thousands of miles away can never be as healthy for us as they should be and they're certainly not healthy for the planet either, in terms of their carbon footprint, even if they're organic! Non-organic apples are sprayed many times with a variety of synthetic systemic pesticides and fungicides, industrially-grown, picked when they're immature, often long before their proper season, washed and disinfected to be free of any naturally occurring beneficial bacteria on their skins, and then often treated with a preservative fungicidal wax. This is purely in order to ensure they survive longer in industrial, climate-controlled cold stores and subsequently in plastic packaging on supermarket shelves. To me those fruits are denatured, altered foods, which can never be as healthy for us as fresh seasonal foods.
Mid-morning snack on my daily walk around the new orchard - Scrumptious truly living up to it's name!
The apples on supermarket shelves all look so glossy and cosmetically attractive - with their perfectly selected uniformity and convenient plastic packaging. Sadly though, the non-organic ones are hiding the dark secrets of their chemical carbon footprint beneath a blemish-free, cosmetically perfect exterior - like Snow White's poisoned apple!  Too often even organic ones are also imported from far away - even at this time of year when they should be easily available locally. We should be demanding more locally-grown, organic apples - or our choice will become even more restricted as orchards are grubbed out everywhere in favour of more lucrative housing estates! The only alternative is to grow one or two trees ourselves. As I mention later - the kitchen gardeners of past centuries, who bred many of the apples still available today, were masters at producing and storing fruit in order to have a variety of tasty fruit for as long as possible - and we can still benefit from that wisdom and their skill - by preserving the varieties they bred and by asking for them or growing them today. But we don't have to just grow old varieties - many of the modern ones are also excellent and have been specifically bred for flavour, nutrients and disease resistance.  As I walked round the new orchard this morning I snacked on a delicious apple called Scrumptious - pictured here - bred in the 1980's, high in antioxidant nutrients and perfectly ripe now. Surely people would remember that name? 
Perfectly ripe fruit, each kind eaten in it's own proper season, is one of Nature's greatest gifts to us.. So let's enjoy our apples fresh, locally and organically-grown while we can! 
Storing rich history!
Most people are so far removed from their country origins now that very few consumers understand the reason why there are times when apples actually have to be stored - let alone know what a ripe apple picked straight off the tree tastes like!  Although absolutely nothing beats a perfectly-ripe apple picked straight off the tree - sadly apples don't grow all year round. If we want apples available all year - then even if they're locally grown, we do have to accept that some will be stored. Climate-controlled mass storage however, is as different to natural, seasonal storage as supermarket shopping is to shopping at a local farmers market!  As I walked around the orchard for the last few weeks - I wished that many of you could be with me. I would so love to see your eyes light up at the colourful picture of genetic diversity and amazing history that all the trees represent - in just the same way that I saw people's faces alight with interest at the Totally Terrific Tomato Festivals! 
One tree that is a source of great delight for me at the moment is the historic variety 'Pitmaston 'Pineapple'.  Its honey-golden colour seems to light up the orchard even on a damp, grey day - and its almost tropical pineapple sherbet flavour is incredible already - even though not it is not yet fully ripe!  Bred in Pitmaston, Worcestershire and Introduced in 1785 - it is a real treasure, despite its small size!  I only planted it four years ago here, before Brexit prevented me from ordering more unusual apple varieties from the UK, and this is the first year I have tasted it grown here.  I well remember a huge, very productive and beautiful old tree of it growing beside the ice house in the grounds of old friend and organic farmer Ivan Ward, at Arthurstown in County Wexford. Growing it here is such a lovely reminder of our many happy and hopeful days establishing organic farming here in Ireland - though much has changed for many of us since.
Pitmaston Pine Apple positively glowing and brightening up a dull morning in the new, east orchard
Pitmaston Pine Apple positively glowing and brightening up a dull morning in the new, east orchard
The trees in my 'New Orchard' are all different varieties, each one chosen for distinctive flavour, for its compatibility with surrounding trees for pollination, and for either early eating or its ability to spread the season of apple availability by keeping well into the following year.  Each variety has an individual history and many have fascinating stories to tell.  The new orchard is sited on the other side of our land well away from the hormone weedkiller spray drift that often affects the old orchard now, and the trees are growing apace. Many of them are old friends which I remember from my childhood - growing up with our 6 acres of orchards close to the Vale of Evesham. That was definitely the roots of my apple addiction!  Of those sadly now long gone trees, many were also the same varieties which I planted here 35 years ago - in order to give us a good selection of apples for as much of the year as possible. I only have about a month or so every year without some fresh or stored, late-ripening home-grown apples. That gap I fill with those preserved either by dehydrating or freezing. I have apples from the end of July until the following May in most years. Some of those that ripen in October will keep well until April or even mid-May. If these are carefully picked and stored like the treasures they are - they can then be eaten later on in winter. Somehow they seem to perfectly encapsulate comforting memories of balmy autumn sunshine! 
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. 
In non-organic commercial orchards trees are often sprayed with chemical growth regulators like 'Cycocel', to produce the same growth-inhibiting effect! Yet another delightful additive to add to the long list of chemicals in the non-organic apple of consumers who think that they're eating something healthy!  Cycocel is the trade name for the chemical Chlormequat Chloride - a growth inhibitor used on cereals like wheat to shorten straw growth and to prevent 'lodging'. It's also used on tomatoes, apples and other crops to encourage better fruiting.  It is a known developmental and reproductive toxin in mammals! Would you really want to give your child a so-called healthy apple grown with such chemicals?
It's the apple season - so why can't we buy a variety of fresh, local apples in shops - now and all year round?
Tickled Pink apple, on tree - mid Sept.Tickled Pink, almost ripe, on the tree mid Sept.

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 it's properly ripe, to meet supermarket specifications, then stored for months or even years in climate-controlled warehouses in an almost cryogenic-like suspension!   

 Tickled Pink apple, has fabulous crimson flesh colour & tastes of cherries!Occasionally, one of the supermarkets may have an English Apple promotion for a week or so in the autumn and you may find the odd russet if you're lucky. So many people are put off by the rough brownish colour and have no idea what they taste like, that you often see them lingering on the shelves. And as I've already mentioned  - these won't have developed their proper, very distinctive flavours, because they're picked well before they're ripe. Yet when eaten in their natural season and fully ripe - varieties like Egremont Russet or Ashmead's Kernel have some of the most complex, richly-aromatic flavours imaginable!  With no doubt the complex phytochemicals to match - since that's where their aromatic flavours originate. My mouth waters just thinking of them! It will be another week or so before the first of my russets - Egremont Russet is properly ripe - and yet only yesterday I read on Twitter that some supermarkets are selling them already. What an abomination! No wonder they taste bitter and foul - with nothing like the sun-warmed, sweet spiciness that they should have! Luckily some of these older varieties are still available in a few farmer's markets - and trees are also increasingly available from good fruit tree nurseries and a few of the better garden centres. 
With that I'm not saying that all new varieties are bad - they're not. There are some really terrific new, non-GM varieties being naturally bred now for specific qualities like higher amounts of desirable antioxidant phytonutrients and disease-resistance. The new high-anthocyanin phytochemical variety 'Tickled Pink' pictured above is one such example. It has delicious crimson flesh which tastes amazingly of sour cherries!  For those like me - who like a more tart and less sweet apple - it is delicious when really ripe but it also makes an excellent cooker - it makes spectacular 'Tarte Tatin'!  Red Devil is another high antioxidant variety with red-stained, crisp flesh and it is a fabulous-tasting, heavy-cropping, disease-resistant variety which picked in early October will keep in normal cold home storage until Christmas most years and is perfect for organic growing. It's also an excellent and reliable pollinator for other varieties, as being a flowering group 3 cultivar, it will pollinate those varieties which are in the groups either side of it's flowering season and will overlap with it's flowering time. What more could you ask? 

Another complaint is 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 - 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 British Isles, with fruit that can be picked from July to the end of October and stored for months, or some which have to be eaten immediately. Later maturing varieties of apples have to be stored in order to preserve them. Apples don't die when they're picked - many varieties that are picked in late October go on developing their flavours slowly in storage and are only at their best after Christmas or even later.
In the old walled kitchen gardens of great houses the gardeners were artists at knowing exactly when each of the hundreds of varieties they grew would be at it's individual unique and perfect stage for picking and storage. Something which one only learns from experience. They had to be experts - for their masters demanded a selection of perfectly preserved fruit to be available all year round. In Victorian times great pride was taken in growing many different varieties of fruit. No dinner party in a great house would be complete without a display and discussion of the various merits of particular apple varieties. They were treated as the delicacies which they are - not thoughtlessly taken for granted like so much mass-produced supermarket fodder - as they are now. Apples have individual characters. Every variety is different - just like people. That's what makes them so fascinating and varied. That difference also means that they're not all suitable for certain climates or particular soils, and also may even behave and taste differently in different years, depending on the weather.
There may perhaps be some people who want apples to predictably taste the same all year round or some may only ask for one particular apple because perhaps that's the only good-tasting variety they know the name of - like say, Cox's Orange Pippin.  That is another reason why really reliable named varieties can tend to disappear - but that is to lose so much of the joy of their fantastic diversity. Even our grandparents knew far more varieties by name than people do now, and would select them in a greengrocers shop. Just in the same way that you can have cheap mass-produced, processed food that will sit on your shelf for months and still taste exactly the same - you can have cheap, mass-produced apples, stored for months or even years!  And they'll be just about as nutritious!  Apples don't come off assembly lines and don't grow to order. They don't 'die' when they're picked - depending on the temperature and humidity at which they're stored, their cells go on functioning normally, powered by energy which they have stored from the sun.  They continue developing slowly - they go on breathing and changing. 
Apples are also affected by prevailing weather conditions during growth - which are different every year and becoming more so with the uncertainties of climate change. In a poor year weather-wise, some varieties may not fruit at all, if the weather is bad when they're flowering - tough if that's your favourite variety!  Another recent problem can be the proximity of orchards to spray drift from neighbouring fields. With modern more efficient vapourising sprayers this is an increasing problem and one I have often suffered from here, as I mentioned earlier. The vapour can carry a very long way and can badly affect any flowering plants like fruit trees at flowering time. Hormone weed killer sprays make sensitive blossom abort and drop off - that's how it's designed to work - so again no apples! Yet another and even more worrying problem is the accelerating decline of bees and other insects so vital for fruit tree pollination. Again this is mainly due to the chemicals used in industrial agriculture and also destruction of habitat. In China they are already having to individually pollinate blossom on thousands of trees by hand!  They've got plenty of cheap labour - but how much would such apples cost here? How many people would be prepared to pay the price for that fruit? 
One of the last Thomas Rivers Nursery cataloguesOne of the last Thomas Rivers Nursery catalogues which I treasure
The consumer does have to bear some responsibility for for less choice of local varieties, along with the demise of old orchards with their far more varied and tastier fruits that were never sold in supermarkets! Many have disappeared along with all their old varieties - often locally discovered and named. This has again been caused by the rise in supermarket shopping, the demand for ever cheaper food, the requirement for uniform shapes and sizes for packing and for varieties that look more attractive and appealing as I've already mentioned!  Many of the old orchards were in traditional market-gardening areas supplying large cities like London - and as surrounding land became increasingly valuable, it was more worthwhile selling it than to try to keep uneconomic old orchards going! The same thing happened to many of the large fruit tree nurseries. A famous, relatively recent case was Thomas Rivers Nursery of Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire. Founded in 1725 - the nursery only closed it's doors for the very last time in 1986. I have one of their last catalogues pictured here from 1980/81 - which I got when I was ordering trees and planning for what I now call the 'old orchard'. (I read fruit catalogues like others read novels!)  
Another reason for orchards and old varieties disappearing is that labour became far more expensive after the two World Wars. This had the result that many of the newer varieties which have been developed since are bred to grow more uniformly, ripen all at the same time and to be more suitable for growing in different ways which facilitate mechanical harvesting. Some old varieties like the small, aromatically perfumed Cornish Gillyflower for instance - which was discovered in a Cornish cottage garden in 1800 - would be totally unsuitable for this kind of production. It's what is known as a 'tip-bearing' apple, fruiting only on the very end tips of branches. If it was pruned in the more labour-saving, mechanical way that modern orchards are, then that means that it would hardly ever produce any apples at all!  Added to that if you saw it in a shop - unless you knew what an absolute jewel you were looking at - you wouldn't buy it! It's quite knobbly and unattractive compared to some more modern varieties - but it's flavour is absolutely incomparable!   
As you can see then - it's not quite as simple as 'an apple is just an apple'! Like everything else in nature - it's a little bit more complicated than that!  I've only outlined a few of the reasons here for the tasteless apples available in shops now. There is an awful lot more involved than just picking an apple off a tree! 
So what can we do about it?  Here's some suggestions. Support local community orchards, volunteer in, or start, community orchards. Find organic growers and see if you can buy direct from them or at farmers markets. Plant a tree or two yourself. You could grow one in even the smallest garden, if you have any outside space at all. You don't even need a garden - trees can be grown on the highly productive M26 rootstock in large containers. Visit the National apple collection at Brogdale and try a few varieties. You could even buy traditional storing varieties in bulk from pick-your-own orchards and store them. Now there's an ideal opportunity for an enterprising organic grower! A lovely, tasty apple day out - learning how to correctly pick and store your own apples!


The Fruits of Memory

Really good fruit of all kinds has always been a great passion for me - but especially orchard fruits like apples, pears and plums. My father was a keen pomologist (or fruit enthusiast) and an expert on apple varieties in particular. He loved his orchards and passed his great love of all fruit on to me. Where I was lucky enough to grow up, we had a large garden where every conceivable kind of fruit was grown - much of it planted in the late 19th century. We were also surrounded by it - living close to the famous fruit growing area of the Vale of Evesham. In addition we had wider family with Cider apple and Perry pear orchards - farming on the Welsh borders in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. So I am steeped in fruit-growing history and apples are in my DNA!  The names of some of those apples were quite probably some of the first words I ever learnt!  
I have vivid memories of my father up at the very top of a huge old wooden ladder picking crisp Conference pears, or Victoria plums as big as duck eggs from trees that seemed as tall as a house to a small girl. I remember him lifting me up to look at the nest a robin had made under the lid of an old iron pump by some dilapidated old farm buildings, down in the dip where the ancient damson trees grew. The Worcester Pearmain tree where my pet spaniel jumped over a fence onto a sharp scythe and cut her paw deeply - my father instantly finding cobwebs in the old stable to staunch the blood flow temporarily, before rushing her to the vet to get it stitched. The huge old Blenheim Orange apple tree that grew beside the beautiful Victorian pig sties with their terracotta-coloured brick walls topped with rounded blue coping stones. Those Blenhein Orange apples were beautifully striped with orange and yellow, crisply aromatic and so enormous that I had to hold them with both hands to try to bite into them, while watching November 5th bonfires! - So many colourful and fruitful memories!  It's such a lovely connection to know that the Blenheim Orange tree growing in my orchard now is actually carrying fruit growing on branches that are in effect simply an extension of that very same tree. It has to be - since named varieties can only ever be propagated using wood from that precise variety!
Sadly the orchards where I played as a child - during sunny and warm autumn days that seemed to last forever - are all gone forever, like so many of the great orchards of England.  I can still picture it all in my mind though - still grow those varieties and enjoy those precious memories. I love carrying on that tradition and passing it on in turn to my children. They don't mind helping to gather the harvest - when they can enjoy eating it too! I was especially thrilled a few days ago when my son remarked that my apple cake tasted so good - and asked me if the 'Grenadier' cooking apple that we'd recently picked together was in it?  Like me- they've absorbed the names of them without even realising it - and are also beginning to know something of their history and origins too, just as I did. Like many other ancient food crops - there is so much history in apples. From the earliest varieties that would have been brought from Eastern Europe by the Romans - the first to discover the art of budding and grafting specific varieties - down through countless generations. Monks in Medieval monasteries who brought 'new' improved varieties like the Old Pearmain, brought from France in the early 13th century and those skilled kitchen gardeners of the great houses, or self-sufficient cottagers, who thought a particular apple that they might have grown from a pip was so good that it was worth propagating. All of these people have passed so many wonderful varieties down to us, their heirs, in the present day. I am so grateful that they did! 
Walking in my orchards I feel surrounded by history - not just my own family history but that of other apple lovers too. I really love that by growing old heritage varieties of apple - I am almost touching hands with that history and connecting with those former apple lovers throughout the centuries, and even the trees I used to climb as a child!  Fanciful you may think?  No - their DNA is exactly the same! This is because any specific named variety of apple can only be propagated by grafting a shoot from that tree onto a new rootstock. That means that all of the apples that we are picking today from any variety are from branches that are simply long continuations of the same branches that former gardeners nurtured and enjoyed, just as we do now!
It's vitally important that we preserve what's left of our old orchards and preserve the wonderful history and genetic diversity in them all. At some point in the future - given the challenges we may face with increasing climate change, the genes in any particular variety could be useful in breeding programmes to develop new apples that may have resistance to some as yet unknown pest or disease yet to emerge. 
Old Pearmain - one of the oldest known varieties. Grown in the UK & France since 1200. Picked in October, it ripens in December and keeps until March.
Old Pearmain - one of the oldest known varieties. Grown in UK & France since at least 1200. Picked in Oct, ripening in Dec - it keeps until March. 
 It's time to order new apple trees and other tree fruits now
This year has been a good year for most fruit growers, despite the drought which in some areas, like here, was worse than others, so you should have plenty if you have fruit trees. If not - then you may decide you'd like to grow one?  If you're not busy picking and storing all your fruit right now - then get busy with ordering fruit catalogues - or doing orders so you'll have some next year.  All fruit is incredibly good for you and so expensive in the shops - most of which is disappointingly inedible! There's still plenty of time to get fruit planted which will crop next year - but the sooner you do it the better. If you can't find good varieties in garden centres on the right rootstock - then look up good fruit nurseries online. Their catalogues are a mine of good, free information and if you order now when many have pre-season offers - you'll be at the front of the queue when it comes to early autumn lifted fruit trees like apples and plums.That way you'll get better bare-root trees which will be sent out starting at the end of next month and throughout the winter. If you get them early you'll have time to get them planted while the soil is still warm and hopefully in good condition. 
Getting fruit trees planted early means they'll get a real head start on anything planted into cold wet soil in late winter or early next spring. The young trees will have a few months then when they can just concentrate on their root development without trying to support new top growth.  I can't tell you what a difference that will make to them and their future cropping potential - particularly if you're planting on a difficult or windy site like mine, or on a new allotment for example. If you start them off in spring, life will be a constant battle for them - in effect they'll be trying to run before they can walk!  It's almost like the difference between starting a child at school for the first time with all the others at the beginning of the autumn term - or starting them at the beginning of January - it can take them a very long time to catch up!
If you don't want to plant bare-root trees, some nurseries and garden centres may have a good selection of varieties on M26 rootstocks....  Warning! If the rootstock isn't stated - then don't buy the trees, or they could be a complete disaster!  In Ireland I find Johnstown Garden Centre particularly good - excellent, informative and knowledgeable customer service from Jim and Oliver there and it's not too far from me as it's in County Kildare. Their trees are grown in peat-free compost and are excellent quality. They also do mail order and have a very good (sadly far too tempting!) website. I also found Deacons Nursery on the Isle of Wight good for sourcing old varieties by mail order years ago - that's where I got the trees for my original orchard - but sadly they have closed down lately - another casualty of people not choosing to grow the older, lesser- known but valuable varieties. I also find Ken Muir reliable in the UK -but sadly after Brexit we can now no longer import trees to Ireland from there. I only recommend nurseries which I know and have had good service from. I don't recommend Nurseries that I don't know or have had bad experiences with!  There are naturally many other reputable and reliable suppliers - but also a few duds with very poor customer service and trees which are often not the varieties they were supposed to be - despite some surprisingly glossy websites!  One or two also have very pushy emailing habits too!  I won't elaborate!
Grapes are another fruit which benefits from planting now - especially in polytunnels - which in my opinion is the only way to grow them!  Growing in polytunnels means that they are dry at flowering time - which is most important as wet pollen doesn't do it's job.  Then when ripe they're also relatively protected from pests like Blackbirds which want to eat them too. Although the wasps still find their way in - and the occasional mouse! Although because I tend to pick my fruit before it's fully or over- ripe and highest in sugar, I often beat them to it!  Wasps are always a very good indicator that fruit is ripe - they don't touch grapes until their sugar content is high.
Remember - growing anything that you can for yourself, especially something which you can store, will give some measure of food security.  With headlines in the newspapers warning of possible food shortages - especially of fresh foods, in the event of a no deal Brexit - this is fast becoming an increasingly likely possibility. Anyway - no matter on how small a scale you grow - whether it's just in a window box or on an allotment - it's always cheaper, far better, far fresher, and also far more satisfying than buying it!  Money simply can't buy the sense of pride and satisfaction you get from growing your own food - especially beautiful and hard to find organic fruit.
Right now I'm off to tackle some more of the windfall apples.  Even though many are bruised, so that they won't store, they can still be used by processing in many ways and freezing. Even dessert varieties which aren't ripe at this time of year can still be used for cooking, when mixed with a few of the early cookers like the delicious and useful  'Grenadier' - which cooks to a wonderfully soft fluff and is a fantastic pollinator, flowering in mid-season and compatible with many varieties which flower during the same seasonal 'window'.  Grenadier falls readily when it's starting to ripen - but doesn't keep it's flavour long off the tree - so needs dealing with immediately!  There are a few 'Bramley' windfalls to mix with it, if it has started to lose its sharpness. Chemically-grown 'Bramley's Seedling' is available all year round from storage, but good organic cooking apples are very difficult to find any time - let alone in late winter. There are never any organic cookers in the shops, so every one is very valuable and I'll be so glad I made the effort! 
Grenadier windfalls. An excellent pollinator for other apples and one that no orchard large or small should be without.
 Grenadier windfalls. An excellent pollinator for other apples and one that no orchard large or small should be without.
 (P.S. I really enjoy sharing my original ideas and 40 years experience of growing and cooking my own organic food with you. It's most satisfying and naturally also very complimentary if others find "inspiration" in my work......But if you do happen to copy any of my material, or repeat it in any way online - I would appreciate it very much if you would please mention that it originally came from me, as it's the result of many years of hard work and often hard-won experience. Thank you.)

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