Fake winter

During the summer, I planted three braeburn seeds that had germinated in the apples (perhaps because they’d been shipped over from New Zealand in cold storage). And thus I embarked on the Quest for the Pippin of St Rumwold – to grow a variety of apple unique to Rumwoldstow. As apples don’t breed true, this will be a numbers game and will take probably five years to show results.

I wanted to try some British apples as being more likely to tolerate the climate and perhaps closer to traditional varieties, so collected seeds from various apples over the late summer and autumn. After October, British apples pretty much vanished from the shops, and I felt I had a pretty good number to be working with – if even one in ten germinates, I’ll have a lot of trees! I learned from t’internet that apple seeds need a period of cold to break their dormancy, and that 30 – 60 days in the fridge should do the trick.

I kept the seeds in plastic boxes, meaning they dried out which may not have been a good thing. On the 3rd December 2020, I gave them all about two hours soak in cold water, then drained them and laid them on moist kitchen towel in plastic boxes which I put in the back of the fridge. The plan is to leave them there until perhaps February 2021, checking them every week or so to make sure they aren’t dried out and in case any are germinating already, then take them out and see how many germinate.

Six types of apple seed ready to be refrigerated

August 2020
Apples from behind the forge at Hauksby. The forge burnt down a month or two after I collected the apples, and I don’t know if the tree was damaged. The apples are an early variety, green and red, and good to eat.

August 2020
Discovery apples from Morrisons. I didn’t note whether these were British, but it seems likely.

September 2020
Gala apples from the Coop. Similarly, I didn’t note if these were British but that’s my guess as to why I chose them.

September 2020
Apples I took from a box outside somebody’s garden in Aynho. They looked like Coxes.

October 2020
Egremont Russets from Morrisons; British.

October 2020
Apples brought by my friend Emma from Scotland. She describe them as Cox-like.

Medlar tasting

I picked all the remaining medlars early in November, after they’d had a couple of frosts, and because I noticed they were starting to drop off the tree. They’ve spent a few weeks bletting in a box on the kitchen windowsill. I ate a few in a zoom meeting just to confuse my friends, and they were pretty good – I think people were slightly surprised when after eating one, I then had another! The other day I decided that it was really time to tackle the remaining dozen or so.

The darker medlars are the soft ones, like those that have been cut open (to the right of the bowl)

Inspired by a friend who has a slightly older medlar tree and larger harvest, I scooped out the flesh and pushed it through a sieve, to remove the seeds (not many per fruit but they are annoying) and make the pulp look generally less unappetising. This wasn’t a quick job, and I’m not sure whether with more fruit you’d just get used to eating them as they ripen? But I wanted to try them on my long-suffering partner who has so far refused to tackle the pulp in its unprocessed state – and to be fair, it is finicky to eat and doesn’t look like much.

Medlar pulp, nom!

I ended up with a few tablespoons of brown mush. I have found medlars so far to have an unfamiliar, fruity but tangy flavour, and decided to soften the impact for my chosen victim by putting each portion of medlar puree on some tinned peaches, with a blob of vanilla ice cream by it. Unfortunately this turned out to be a bit of an own goal, in that the peaches and ice cream flavour smothered the medlar. I guess in small quantities it just isn’t that strong a flavour.

On the positive side, it was definitely inoffensive and I think medlar would be a good filling for a tart.

A few of the medlars were not yet bletted, the insides being mostly pale green. Next year, when I hope the tree will have more fruit (2 last year, 20-ish this year), I should have a better idea of how to judge blettedness from outer consistency.

The medlar tree is one of this year’s few orchard successes, as it’s been fully hardy and took no heed of the late frosts which destroyed the entire apple harvest. And it provides fresh fruit rich in vitamin C during November. While I can see why it fell from favour, I can also see it as a valued staple of the Anglo-Saxon orchard.