I picked the apples from the Lord Lambourne apple tree on Sunday and today I’ve sorted them into two lots: those pecked by birds or showing symptoms of fly speck for eating now and those that are perfect and can be wrapped in newspaper and stored in boxes in a single layer. I still have the apples from Chivers Delight to pick but as they are a late eating apple I will leave them on the tree as long as possible. I don’t have any special apple storing furniture – strong cardboard boxes, newspaper and a cool airy garage seem to keep the apples in good condition until January.
In our village we have a special, even historic, building called The Apple Store. It probably dates to around the late 19th century when the Manor House was occupied by the Lambert family whose wealth was derived from the tobacco industry. We have a fascinating photographic archive of this large family (there were six daughters and possibly almost as many sons) living their late Victorian lives devoted to sport and leisure. We see them taking tea on the lawn underneath the Cedar tree, playing lawn tennis – not forgetting the pony-drawn mowing machine, bicycling, carriage driving and picnicking A favourite photo shows one of the girls riding side saddle dressed in a sweeping riding habit. The manor house has been the club house for the golf club since the 1920s when the stables and glass houses were swept away to make room for housing, so it is rather pleasing that the Apple Store, hidden away in a corner of a field now used for mini-rugby, is still there and allows us to remember a time when self-sufficiency in apples was normal.
A few years ago I surveyed all the old apple orchards in my area for the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and even in my semi-rural commuter village you would be surprised at how many orchards still exist as you only need five fruit trees to make an orchard. Sadly I know of two which are no longer. One was recently grubbed up to make way for an expanse of prairie planting and the old orchard behind my allotment was reduced in size last year to allow a sand school for horses to be built.
Yesterday I half-caught a snippet of radio 4 news where the reporter had spoken to a young woman in Aleppo who was pregnant with her first child. The woman said how much better she would feel if she could just eat a fresh apple. Hearing this stopped me in my tracks. How I would love to give my boxes of apples to the people of Aleppo and how much would I give for the continuing horrors to be over and for Syria and all other war-torn countries in this region to regain their paradise. (It is the Persian word for an enclosed garden devoted to fruit trees and other sensory delights -pairidaeza – which became the Roman paradisus and thus gave us our English word, paradise.)
Continuing with apples, yesterday I found a secondhand copy of The Book of Apples by Joan Morgan. (Her latest, The Book of Pears, is just about to be published.) It is a tantalising mixture of history, beautiful watercolour paintings and encyclopaedic information about every apple under the sun.
And to finish four photos from my week.
Hoping you are also able to enjoy an apple a day – and if it’s from your own tree then that is even better. I now have to decide where to plant my new quince tree, which will bring my fruit tree tally at the allotment to six. For now I buy quince from my local greengrocer and once I’ve enjoyed the scent for a few days I make quince and apple cake. Here is my recipe:-
One quince and three apples peeled and chopped and mixed with the zest and juice of one lemon and one heaped tablespoon of soft brown sugar. Place in an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 mins.
Meanwhile cream together 150g butter and 150g sugar until pale and fluffy, add two large beaten eggs and continue mixing. Fold in 100g of ground almonds and 85g self-raising flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder. Add the cooked fruit with all the juices and mix together gently. Pour into a lined cake tin (I use a 23cm square tin) and bake at 180 degrees for 30 mins. Delicious either served warm as a pudding with cream or creme fraiche or cold as a cake.