An apple a day



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.

The apple display at West Dean garden near Chichester last Wednesday. The chilli displays were outstanding too. 
I loved the colours and texture in this square bed also at West Dean garden which inspired me to plant Pennistum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ together with a purple flowered hellebore (garden seedling), rosy Astrantia (divided to make two new plants) and four different tulips: Angelique, Black Parrot, Blue Parrot and Ronaldo – because you can never have too many tulips. Also in this new area is the established peony Sarah Bernhardt while a crimson clematis, Madame Julia Correvon, climbs up and through Cornus Midwinter Fire and Euonymus Emerald Gaiety. 
Coming down from St Martha’s Hill, Chilworth on Sunday where we’d been to a wonderful concert of classical guitar music in St Martha’s church. The concert was performed by three students from the Yehudi Menuhin School. 
The gardener’s cottage at Polesden Lacey yesterday afternoon.

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.




11 thoughts on “An apple a day

  1. Those apples look most delicious Sarah. I’ve just peeled and stewed some of my allotment apples tonight and the aroma is wafting in this direction at the moment. Good luck with your quince tree. Which variety are you planting?


  2. What an interesting post. The recipe for quince and apple cake sounds delicious. I don’t have a quince tree, but we have 5 apple trees in the garden, so I’ve plenty of them at the moment, so I might give it a whirl today. That gardener’s cottage is the stuff of dreams. xx


  3. If only we could all send a box of apples to Aleppo … I’m pleased to learn that our little group of fruit trees counts as an orchard; we’re eating the last of the Discovery, which are a little woolly now and have just started the Sunset and Blenheim Orange. I’d love to have a display like West Dean’s.

    Your photo of St Martha’s Hill reminded me of the day we were caught in a storm there. The forecast was for a dry, sunny day so we walked without waterproofs in our pack and got drenched


  4. What a lovely post, full of local autumn charms and beautifully illustrated. What an idyllic looking gardener’s cottage. I didn’t know that it only takes five fruit trees to make an orchard.


  5. I really enjoyed this interesting and informative post, thank you. I have a very ancient orchard which is marked on my deeds and must have been there for a long time. The only trouble is, as with many ancient gardens, particularly orchards, we have a honey fungus problem.
    I usually get my apples filling the freezer, or boxed up ready for winter use. This year I have been a bit dilatory. You have inspired me, I will make a start today.


  6. Well, I’ve learnt something here (as I invariably do from your posts, Sarah) – we have an orchard in our garden then! How lovely. The fruit trees here are not in peak condition, though, and I’m hoping we’ll get some advice at Brogdale this weekend. The news from Aleppo is heart-breaking, isn’t it? We are so fortunate. Thank you for the cake recipe. I just need to find some quinces…


  7. What a lovely post, Sarah. I didn’t know the root of the word paradise but that makes perfect sense. I always thing orchards are places of magic. Xx


  8. What an interesting post. We planted 5 fruit trees two years ago, so no fruit yet, but one of them is a Lord Lambourne so I hope to get a crop as good as yours one day.


  9. Yes, most interesting – and we have just had a large bag of LL apples from one of the Golfer’s playing partners, but she said they wouldn’t keep… You suggest different, so it’s worth trying? Last week’s Food programme on Radio 4 was about apples and there is a new book which I think is all about British apples, although sadly the author is allergic to apples! I only caught part of the programme so it may be the one you heard,. Such poignant thoughts about Syria… Your allotment is sounding wonderful!


  10. A really interesting post, Sarah. Apples are a major part of my family’s diet, whether from our tree or elsewhere. Our own apples are pretty well spent now but we have had a huge influx this weekend from a neighbor’s tree. He’s an elderly man who lives next to my in-laws and cannot pick his own apple anymore, so he said we could have them if we picked them. He only wanted a few, so we took the rest. Now I have three large bags of apples to use and I think I will make applesauce and possibly apple butter this week. I appreciated reading what you shared about the young woman in Aleppo, a place which is important to me because that is where my mother’s family comes from. I hope you have a good week ahead.


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