Once again the apple trees in the orchard have cropped well. However, we have spent the last few weeks slightly anxious that the apples would either be blown down in the storms or eaten by the deer before we had a chance to harvest them.
On Sunday (which neatly happened to be Michaelmas day) we hosted an autumnal gathering for neighbours to give people a chance to taste the different apple varieties and to get some help with harvesting the fruit, in exchange for plenty of cake, scones and sociability.
In total twenty-four neighbours joined us and as the weather cleared up mid- afternoon we managed to harvest nearly 160kg of apples. This compares with a harvest of around 80kg last year. The plan is to store around 120 apples (12kg) for eating before Christmas and to press the rest to make apple juice and cider. None of the apples is good for storing longer than a couple of months.
This year we have been more organised about ensuring all the trees are labelled and picking the apples by variety so that we can make more informed blends of juice.
The tally of different apples is as follows:
Ellison’s Orange 45kg
Peasgood’s Nonsuch 14kg
Egremont Russet 13kg
Newton Wonder 10kg
Ribston Pippin 8kg
Chivers delight 5kg
Mixed good quality windfalls 4kg
The Newton Wonder and Chivers Delight are both very young trees – perhaps around six to seven years old, whereas the other trees are mature. Ellison’s Orange seemed to be about to topple over in the wet winter, but we used a bandage and a stake to keep it more or less upright and it has cropped heavily. All are on dwarf root stock making their apples easy to harvest. Only one of the dwarf rooted mature trees did not produce at all this year – Howgate Wonder. It’s great that records from previous owners identify all these apple trees as it is fun to know the varieties – however one puzzle is that the Peasgood nonsuch do not match the description of being a good cooking apple as they don’t cook to a fluffy pulp – so it may need to be renamed to Peasgood not-as- such in our orchard.
Whereas last year it was the mature taller apple trees of unknown variety that cropped heavily, this year they have produced virtually nothing.
As well as picking apples for human consumption it was great to be joined by our neighbour with a smallholding who collected a large wheelbarrow of windfalls for her pigs.