Posts tagged ‘apples’

October 18, 2013

Apple Day and Countryside Live.

Apple Day is one of my favourite annual events, first launched by Common Ground back in 1990. Celebrating the rich variety of apples we have in this country, ‘local distinctiveness’, landscape, ecology and the importance of provenance and traceability in food, this is a day that I absolutely love. Apple Day itself is on 21st October, but you’re likely to find events over most of October up and down the country, including cookery demonstrations, apple identification for those of you with unknown varieties in your garden, games for children to have fun with, growing tips and orchard tours. Common Ground no longer manage an Apple Day calendar, because their original intent was always that it took on a life of its own and became part of the seasonal calendar as much as any Harvest Festival might; a naturally occuring part of every October.  I, for one, will always celebrate Apple Day in some way or another.

I quite often go to RHS Harlow Carr on Apple Day. They don’t seem to have an Apple Day event this year, but they’re doing  a week of ‘Sensational Autumn’ activities for half term which look great fun. Other Apple Day events across the country include those run at several National Trust properties, such as apple pressing and other activities at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire.

This weekend is also Countryside Live, at the Harrogate Show Ground on Sunday. As well as  a display of apples and apple variety identification, there will be lots of other seasonal goodness, show-jumping and other equine classes for me to reminisce over, a myriad of other activities from sheepdog trials to chainsaw carving and the addition of tractors and animals will ensure that my kids have a great day out, so we’re going to spend Sunday there. Do come and say hello if you’re visiting too!

Many apple varieties remain unfamiliar to most of us because we’re presented with a pitiful selection in the supermarkets. Apple Day is a chance for us to redress that balance, find a bit about our local area, and the amazing heritage of fruit growing that we have. Do have a look to see if there’s an event near you!

Apple Varieties

September 25, 2011

An apple a day…

The apple might not be the most exciting fruit on the supermarket shelf, but there’s a reason for that. Of all the varieties of apple that are still available today, the supermarkets only sell a handful. So, if you only shopped there, you might think that your only options were these ones, chosen for many reasons, but one of them is without question, their hardiness and suitability to be transported all over the globe. Taste is not at the top of the list, so there is no wonder that other fruit would be more appealing.

However, the humble apple gets more exciting when you realise the truth about it. The truth is that there are ( wait for it) 2,000 varieties of apple still around today, all grown at the National Apple Collection at Brogdale, Kent. Amazing!  They have a huge variety of tastes, shapes, perfumes and textures, not to mention wonderful names. Who could resist a Bloody Ploughman, Peasgood’s Nonsuch, Norfolk Beefing, Cornish Gilliflower or Doctor Harvey? All old English varieties with stories to suit their names. I have yet to see a Catshead variety but when I do I will be looking to see if it lives up to its name (which apparently, in profile, it does!)

I am fortunate enough to have four varieties on my plot:

I planted these myself and chose a combination of old heritage varieties and modern types, because the modern ones tend to be hardier and are more prolific. Often heritage varieties of any fruit or vegetable have something about them that has led to them being commercially  unattractive, but are still of huge value not only for their fruit but to preserve our biodiversity and heritage.

Blenheim Orange

Blenheim Orange – an orange- red flushed variety producing large fruit. This was originally found growing against the boundary wall of the Blenheim Estate by a man called Kempster, and known as Kempster’s Pippin, the Duke Of Marlborough gave his approval for it to be made commercially available under the name of Blenheim Orange. This variety produces beautiful fruit, but is biennial (only fruits every other year) and can be erratic.


Katy – a modern hybrid (James Greive x Worcester Pearmain) which produces bright red fruit with pink tinged flesh. It’s really prolific and has a really sweet variety with strawberry undertones. Once picked, they quickly go soft so need eating up, so it’s a good job they’re so popular with my kids!

Court Pendu Plat

Court Pendu Plat – an ancient variety, with a history across Europe. My tree was originally designed to be a step-over but I wasn’t timely enough with training it so now it’s just a tiny tree with its first equally tiny fruit (and I mean ONE fruit!) growing this year. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is going to ripen successfully, as the fruit is intensely flavoured with a pineapple acidity which will keep until February. The day I eat it, I will be sitting down and just concentrating on that taste…

Kidd’s Orange Red

Kidd’s Orange Red – another hybrid (Cox’s Orange Pippin x Delicious) produced by an amaateur breeder in New Zealand. Has a lovely flowery taste, stays on the tree longer than Katy ( so I don’t get a glut) and is another prolific fruiter.

I have space for a fifth tree, and will be planting a different old heritage variety this winter. Possibly one that will be good for cooking with – but keep its shape when cooked. I’d like to make my own Tarte Tatin, one of my favourite apple recipes. Luckily these days, a much wider variety of apple trees are available for sale as interest grows in our heritage varieties so my only problem will be choosing which one!

If you’re interested in learning more about apples, or in fact just having a lovely day out, the wonderful organisation that is Common Ground hold Apple Day every October, with a wide variety of events up and down the country. I usually go to the one held at RHS Harlow Carr, which is always a great event, with a room packed with rare varieties to view, bags of different apples to buy and specialists on hand to help you identify the variety of apple tree you might have in your back garden! Plus, lots of activities, the stunning gardens to walk around, Betty’s Tea Rooms and a brilliant bookshop.

More wonderful apple resources:

‘The Apple Source Book’ by Sue Clifford and Angela King at Common Ground (Hodder and Stoughton) has recipes, history and an index of varieties.

‘The New Book of Apples’ by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards (Ebury Press) is a comprehensive history of the fruit and indexes more than 2,000 varieties.

‘Tender Volume II’ Fruit (Fourth Estate) by Nigel Slater. Some of my favorite apple recipes and beautiful writing from my favourite cookery writer.

‘An apple a day keeps the Doctor away’  

J.T. Stinson. Address to the St Louis Expedition, Missouri 1904 

September 13, 2011

Autumn: A new start

I love the changing of the seasons. One of the best things of living in Britain is that we still have distinct seasons, bringing different foods, activities, and changes to our natural environment. Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. Partly because it’s the time for apple harvesting,watching the leaves turn colour and sitting on the sofa under a cosy blanket, but also because it means a new start. Although Spring is the usual time for us to think about new beginnings, I think Autumn, with it’s memories of new school terms (and new books, blank white pages of paper and fresh pens) is a great time to think about what is coming next.

For me, it’s looking forward to the lovely run up to Christmas, with Apple Day, Halloween, Bonfire Night and Eve’s birthday all to come before then. Now that I’ve completed one of the biggest physical challenges of my 35:35 Challenge, it’s time to take stock. I have got a long way to go to make all 35 and not all of them can be as brutal as Yorkshire 3  Peaks or I might not make it. So my thoughts are turning to challenges based around the gentle arts – baking, making, and craft-type activities that seem to suit the early days of Autumn.

‘Katy’ apples on my allotment

As the recent winds have given me rather too many windfall apples, I won’t be able to keep them for eating, so apple recipes are needed for a start.

I also have a desire to learn some new crafts – I am very good at thinking up ideas, but pretty awful at completing things. I can spend hours dreaming over Jane Brocket’s book, ‘The Gentle Art of Domesticity’, (or actually all her books and blog, I think she’s wonderful) but I rarely make anything – apart from endless baking with Eve, sometimes from Jane’s book ‘Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer’, which, in a work of genius, combines food and children’s literature – two of my favourite things!

Anyway, I digress. In order to complete a few ‘gentle’ challenges, I am looking for a teacher. I hope to attempt a bit of crochet, perhaps knitting, who knows? So I’m on the hunt for people to teach me some of these things. To start with though, I’m going to try to find a simple dressmaking pattern and use some of my old Liberty fabric to make something!

If you’ve got any fantastic apple recipes, simple dressmaking patterns or other Autumnal loveliness let me know!