Last year for the first time we got a couple of apples from the young Hambledon Deux-ans apple tree, planted nearly five years ago now. It was the tree that was most munched by enthusiastic young cows in its first year and I’m honestly chuffed that it’s alive at all. I put the apples in the dining room and kept meaning to move them somewhere cooler but never got round to it, and finally decided to just eat them!
All things considered, I think the apple didn’t do too badly; more than half of it was eatable, though very tart. I can see why it’s described as a cooker. Fingers crossed the tree will do better this year, though with the hazards of drought and late frost, it’s an absolute unknown quantity.
A few months ago, Brother Alf scavenged a few apples for me from a tree growing wild nearby. It is on the edge of a small thicket of unmanaged woodland and An Expert has said it looks like a pippin – that is, a tree that grew from seed, probably from a commercial apple which somebody cast aside (well, the core thereof). I ate one of the apples immediately, sent the second to The Expert, and kept the third one until yesterday. It shrivelled up but proved sound and still very tasty.
So the apples are at least moderately good keepers – still good in late December – and in the spring I will try to get The Expert to graft some cuttings so we can have a legit instance of the tree in our orchard.
Sadly, the local rats have discovered the apple store, which we really shouldn’t have left in a doorless gatehouse but there was literally nowhere better to put it, and they have carefully eaten all the sweet eating apples. Last time I looked there were only the Bramleys left which are better than nothing but not as good when eaten raw, and some of them are going brown inside. For next year we will need to ratproof the store somehow. The traditional method for a granary is to raise it on “mushrooms”, shaped blocks that the rats can’t climb up. But a modern person would perhaps use wire mesh. The loss sucks, but definitely gives one an idea of life in an agrarian society where loss of stored food is a disaster. And where you have to be a bit more on the case 🙁
We are still rich in apples, they are literally falling off the tree now…we picked all the good apples from the “eater” in the Rumwoldstow orchard, but the Bramley in the garden continues to provide windfalls from above even after we picked the low-hanging fruit. To this end I am road-testing what I call “ginger nun”, a variant on “peasant girl with veil” (a traditional Danish recipe of stewed apple topped with fried, sweetened breadcrumbs, cream and grated chocolate).
I’ve left out the chocolate, and instead of sugar, I’ve mixed honey and ginger with the butter in which the breadcrumbs were fried.
This made use of a good-sized colander full of the better windfalls, which had a good amount of usable fruit on each. We then picked up and sorted today’s windfalls – three buckets full! – and took them to the cows on Lake Meadow.
The apple harvest continues with Al bravely venturing up a ladder to pick the best of the Bramleys which we sorted and laid carefully in the apple store, on most inauthentic sheets of newspaper. We also picked the best eaters from the old tree in the orchard, which we have gradually restored to “tree shaped” after years of it being driven northwards in a quest for light which was occluded by a dark wall of leilandii.
I also picked the three “Hambledon Deux Ans” apples, the first fruit we’ve seen on the tree, which was planted in 2018. Creating an orchard is a slow game. I have not yet eaten any of them; they are supposed to be a very good keeper, so I should eat one now and then leave the others for some months at least.
The Louise Bonne of Jersey gave us half a dozen or so good pears this year; it seems to be quite biennial already so I’m glad to have put in a couple more pear trees this year.
Another first for the year is that our “Portugal” quince, planted May 2018, produced five quinces! Last year there was one very shrivelled and unappealing fruit, so this is a great step forward. I harvested them, peeled and poached them in a light syrup. They have a surprising orange fragrance.
The flavour of quince is…interesting. It’s not unpleasant, but a bit like mango I am unused to it and it’s strange to me. This variety was quick to cook and I found some interesting information about the quince in wikipedia.
The quince is another fruit, like the medlar, which may be rendered edible by “bletting” – softening by frost and subsequent decay. They are commonly cooked, being hard and astringent when raw, and the term “marmalade” originally meant a quince jam, being derived from the Portugese word for the fruit, marmelo.
The quince is traditionally used to treat digestive disorders and may reduce symptoms of early pregnancy such as vomiting and nausea; a 2016 article outlines a wealth of possible pharmaceutical uses of the fruit and seeds.
I leave you with a photo of the cattle on Lake Meadow, who kindly agreed to dispose of the windfalls that I can’t be bothered to process.
Despite Rumwoldstow having been in existence for some years now, and the Quest of the Pippin of St Rumwold being in its third active year, it was only this month that I consciously recognised an apple tree on a nearby inaccessible bit of land as being of potential interest, in that we have no record of that land having ever been cultivated so it might be a pippin, that is a unique variety grown from seed, perhaps because of a carelessly discarded fruit.
Brother Alf kindly hitched up his robes and acquired me a couple of fruits to try. Our local heritage tree expert took a look at the photos and said they might be similar to an Ellisons Orange, an early (c1905) cross of Cox’s Orange Pippin, and that he’s previously noticed the tree and thinks it looks like a pippin.
On the Apple Tree Man’s advice, I ate one immediately, and will see how well the other keeps. It had indeed a faint perfume and flavour of aniseed, consistent Ellison’s, and was a fresh, tasty apple of good size.
We are at present wealthy with apples! We picked as many as we could reach from the two mature trees in the garden – one Bramley, and one eater of unknown provenance, and layered the best of them in an apple store in the west gatehouse, on newspaper and separated from each other to prevent rot from spreading between fruits. I don’t know how well any of them will keep, but at least we’re giving it our best shot. And we have at present a supply of windfalls and imperfect fruits which need to be either processed to turn anything usable into stewed apple or crumble, or piled into buckets and given to the cows on Lake Meadow.