And so, as the year turns onwards, we find ourselves harvesting apples and picking the first of the rich black brambles. Our apple trees this year are absolutely laden with fruit and we have had to start picking early to lighten the load and prevent some of the older branches from breaking under the weight.
We were too late for one particularly old tree situated near the cottage and discovered two limbs have been ripped from the trunk leaving huge gaping wounds on the main stem. On three other branches, we picked as many apples as possible to try and lighten the load on the remaining limbs. As we cut off each branchlet the tree visibly lifted, and the branches began to resume a more natural shape.
Range of Apples
We now have a huge pile of discarded branches, a carpet of small, crunchy unripe apples – which the deer and rabbits are already nibbling, and seven large bags of apples of various shapes and sizes – some we can eat and some we will have to cook.
What do you do with your apples? We make jelly, chutney and puree for pies and desserts or make them into rings and dry them but I’m thinking of buying a juicer. You can’t beat a glass of freshly squeezed apple juice and it is really good for you. Don’t confuse it with mass produced apple juice drinks from the supermarket.
Fresher the better!
The fresh juice contains pectin, fibre, vitamins A, C and B6 and it is rich in calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese and iron. if you drink it regularly, you might find your bones growing stronger, your blood sugar is better regulated, your heart is stronger, and your skin is glowing. It contains a lot of nutrients the body needs and a bottle a day might just keep the Doctor away.
Apples are a huge part of our everyday life. When we learn to read, we are taught that‘a’ is for appleand apple pie with cream is one of the most popular desserts, and yet the origin of the fruit is obscure. They are mentioned 5000 years ago, and it is thought that they possibly originated in Kazakhstan, ‘travelling’ along the Silk Road from Central Asia and China into Persia and Greece finally reaching the Romans.
Somewhere along the way, it was realised that you got a more reliable and quicker crop if you grafted fruit wood onto another tree or rootstock as this would give you fruits in a couple of years whilst growing apples from seed could take many years and might not produce the same apple.
The next time you crunch into a ‘Golden Delicious’ remember this; Its genome sequence contains about 57,000 genes whilst we humans have a mere 30,000. Unlike the apples we are used to seeing and buying in supermarkets, e.g. “Cox’s Orange Pippin”, “Granny Smith”, “Golden Delicious”, “Bramley’s Seedling”, there are literally thousands of different varieties and they have such lovely names. How do you fancy buying “Bloody Ploughman’’ or “Peasgood Nonsuch” or the self-explanatory “Scrumptious”?
We are hoping to plant a new orchard soon and we will try and include some of the reliable old Scottish varieties such as “Golden Pippin” and “Beauty of Moray” and some with local connections e.g. “Stirling Castle” and “Cambusnethan Pippin”.
I know it would take a lifetime or more to learn everything there is to know about apples but hopefully we can learn enough to have a successful, delicious crop every year. There are a handful of experts out there specialising in Scottish fruit and reviving interest in plum, pear and apple trees that grow well in our climate.
The next time you are thinking of buying a new fruit tree, why not try one of these suppliers of our Scottish varieties. Their stock may be better able to resist late frost on the blossom or cope better with our higher rainfall than varieties more suited to the South of England and they make lovely presents. If you send off for their catalogues, you can spend a cosy few hours curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea or coffee, reading all the fascinating descriptions and planning your imaginary orchard whilst nibbling on some apple strudel or apple cake.
The Humble Apple
We have a lot to be thankful for in our lives but take time to appreciate the humble apple for without it our lives would be lot poorer.