15 November 2012

Apples


Yesterday we spent a lovely day doing all things apple.

Our Wednesday friends, a family that we meet up with every Wednesday to do stuff with, arranged for us all to go to the house of a local lady who is something of an apple expert.  We would both like to plant apple tress in our gardens so we were going to use the opportunity to work out which variety of tree(s) would be suitable to plant.

We started off tasting apples, my youngest thought this was great she loves all fruit but most especially apples.  It is now quite late in the apple season so we not able try any early fruiting varieties and some of those we did try we were told did not taste quite as good as they would have done earlier in the season.  It was still interesting to experience the huge variety of taste and texture between the apples we did try.

Apple varieties have such wonderful names, many of them have been raised by gardeners of wealthy landowners and the variety named after them.  Whilst tasting we particularly like Laxton's FortuneSpartan and the wonderfully named Cockpit Improved.  We talked about where each variety had come from and how old they were, how the names can reflect the shape for example the Pearmain varieties have a pear like shape or the Russets which describe the skin, usually slightly rougher and with greeny- brown or yellowy-brown colouration.

We were then taken to her orchard a collection of about 200 trees.  Some of the trees were growing as standards, a traditional tree shape, and some as cordons a single stem at a 45° angle.  She also showed us the wonderfully named family trees where there were three varieties of apple growing on one tree ideal for those with a smaller garden.  Apples are not in the main self fertile, they need other apple trees around for pollination and therefore fruiting, some are even sterile and will not fruit at all without other apple trees growing nearby.

The lady herself made the day so special.  She was knowledgeable, interesting, engaging and wonderful with children.  She did not force them to listen or make demands of them at all.  She sensed that my eldest was not comfortable around those he does not know and quietly asked me what he was interested in.  Later I heard her engaging him in conversation about that very topic.  She not only gave us her knowledge and her time and also her apples.  There was a tree still bearing fruit in the orchard another one with a wonderful name, Catshead, we left laden with fruit.  She also owns a juicer which she generously told us we could borrow if we would like to juice these apples.  We leant how to make cider and vinegar from her so some of those apples may end up in demijohns!

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