Tuesday 4 December 2012

Autumn windfall

Food for free on the village plot
This beautiful book, the Northern Pomona, is about apples grown in the North of England from early last century and before. It has been assembled by a group of knowledgable apple enthusiasts and seeks to provide a record of traditional customs and culture. It is a fascinating, superbly illustrated account of old varieties. It records how and where apples were grown, traditional practices, storage and preservation. It also has a huge section on old recipes.
The book tells how, in Sutton upon Derwent, just five miles from here, farm workers would seek out self sown hedgerow apple trees and graft onto them with culinary regional varieties. A  few years later they would walk the fields and collect apples to feed their families. Yorkshire countrymen would eat fresh local apples in every single month of the year.

Alas, not any more. Seaton Ross village plot has ten apple trees, each perhaps 60 years old and now somewhat neglected. Each year they drop delicious, sweet eating-apples onto the un-mown grass. Some are flawed with scab and other ‘skin deep’ disorders. They are unlikely to keep beyond Christmas. Sadly, other than myself, no one bothers to help themselves! Villagers would rather buy unblemished, sprayed, waxed and often imported expensive apples at the superstore! My free apples on the plot could be described as completely organic!

The good, the  bad and the ugly.
We won’t be eating these but our neighbour’s rheas will love them

Each time I work on the plot between October and December, I take my trug and return home with apples. Brenda makes lovely pies, crumbles and tarts. Some apples are eaten fresh, used chopped in salads and even find their way into the Christmas mincemeat.
This still leaves loads to freeze for the rest of the year. Brenda tells me it so easy to preserve apples that it’s not worth recording. Easy for some, a great mystery to me!

Prepared, Micro-waved, Ready for freezer, Ready to eat!

The apples are peeled and segmented. They aren’t cooking apples, they are ‘eaters’ and do not require sugar. In contrast, I do grow a few Bramleys at home and these are sugared when newly picked, but after a few weeks in ‘cold store’ - an open cardboard box in the garage - they too, are sufficiently ripe to not need sugar. Brenda tells me that in many countries ‘cooking apples’ are not grouped as a distinct class. The Northern Pomona tells you the subtle distinct culinary uses of individual varieties.
And yes, preserving apples is easy. The peeled apples are reduced to a puree in the microwave oven, go into recycled Chinese takeaway tubs and, after cooling, go straight to the freezer. Just like the tomatoes in this post.

This ornamental crab apple, ‘Golden Hornet’ enriches the village plot. The apples could be eaten, but I prefer their beauty!
The Northern Pomona is available from here


  1. I have two apple trees in my garden. One is Newton Wonder, the other a mystery, and neither is very healthy, but we get loads of not very attractive apples every year. A couple of years ago we invested in a de-hydrating machine, so we now have jars and jars of dried apple slices which last us well into the winter, and are fabulous on cereal or in cakes - or just eaten as sweeties. As a point of interest, they are slightly 'fizzy' when you eat them.

    1. Thanks for the great tip anon. In fact Brenda has gone straight onto the net to look up whether she can dry apples in the oven!
      Your fizzy taste comment is intriguing

    2. You can indeed dry them in the oven Roger. We used to do it with some particularly disgusting perry pears that were otherwise inedible. And don't worry if you leave them in too long, you just get apple/pear crisps!
      I agree with the previous poster - ours were also just a bit 'fizzy'.

    3. What me! I don't think Brenda would let me anywhere near the oven! She is suddenly keen to dry apples. Tomorrow I will be back down to the plot to see if any are left. Pity I have tipped off villagers about the free apples!

  2. I usually get lots of apples from my tree and in previous years I have taken them up the road to Yorkshire Orchards and had them pressed into apple juice. Sadly I only got 8 apples from my tree this year and they are not great. I thought that I would slice them up along with some oranges and dry them out. They will make a wonderful, fruity smelling Christmas garland when threaded on a string with some pine cones and cinnamon sticks.

  3. Yes, Sue my own crop has not been good this year. My Bramleys only had about 30 apples a fraction of normal. The only apples on the plot this year were in fact all on one tree which was quite prolific. Pollination conditions were rather dodgy this year- not so much frost more wind and wet which stopped the insect pollinators getting about.
    I am enjoying your whispering blog!

  4. We have some scabby canker ridden apple trees that we inherited on one of our plots but whilst they deliver fruit they will stay!

    1. Quite right Sue! Scab is only skin deep! We are so used to perfect looking apples from the supermarket that we have forgotten that in the past apples had scab, sawfly marks etc. My old boss used to quote a famous classic painting of a beautiful buxom lady next to a beautiful bowl of fruit, regarded then as equally gorgeous- they were all blemished. I have just googled this, and found a famous Cezanne picture of apples, some of those were blemished.
      Have you tried pruning out your canker from the tree? I have been amazed in former clients garden how a really ruthless pruning out of canker can rejuvenate a tree (but no tree paint mind!)

    2. I'm afraid that the canker is too deep seated. The trees for a sort of fedge - a cordon that has lost its way a bit. and some if the main boughs are very cankerous and so pruning isn't an option as it would involve just about removed the trees by the roots.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...