Collecting apples this year was fun. Despite the meadows still being up in the orchard -a complication frustratingly owing to faulty machinery- the picking was easy. Our apple trees were planted about 5 years ago, comprising old varieties grafted as standards; the specifics of which are sadly omitted from any planting records I have managed to locate. The harvest this year was nothing short of a bumper; so much so that I have been filling small packets of mixed varieties for friends for the last few weeks, and I know other fortunate apple tree possessors have had a similar experience.
The single raspberry says it all at the moment (to continue my pessimistic outlook on produce growing this year); an emblem for the stark appearance of the vegetable beds at present. It’s not totally fair to blame the terrible weather; imbalanced temperatures and freakishly low light levels included, as there are always additional measures that can be implemented. But I would say that I’d love to be a dedicated vegetable grower one year, released from the duties that come with caring for the larger garden as a whole. There just never seems enough time to really get to grips with the full craft of growing food. And I think time constraints have actually played an equally significant role in this year’s struggle towards a decent harvest.
With that said, there have been a few successes so far that have made it into the kitchen, albeit in slightly meagre quantities. The potatoes and broccoli were great, and the herbs raised from seed all did quite well, parsley in particular. And now after the usual slow start, the season of excessive runner beans has begun. You can never have too many runner beans, which is good really as once they start to fruit they just don’t stop.
Lastly, beetroot has been the unexpected winner this year. Although materialising from a later-than-planned sowing, the root bulbs are just as they should be, and taste amazing. Good to know I got something right anyway.
Unfortunately the winds had claimed the top half of one of the apple trees in the meadow. I had debated with myself, all the preceding week leading up to my holiday, over whether or not it would be wise to thin the fruits that were beginning to weigh down the bows, in case there was a tough wind while I was away. Wise, frustratingly, it would have indeed been.
Removing the broken young limbs cleanly with secateurs, I collected up the premature apples, still developmentally inseparable from the spurs. Other than a handful of lepidopteran-invaded, destined for the compost, I took the small haul home and followed Hugh’s simple steps to a redeeming apple chutney, to make the best of a fairly dismal situation.
Lesson learned. Although, early apples do make a bloody good chutney..