Monday, 22 October 2012

The Most British Of Fruits

The apple is found as a symbol throughout human culture; in pictures of the garden of Eden (although most scholars believe it was some other fruit), poisoning Snow White, keeping the doctor away and now as one of the best known technology logo's in the world. But the apple is the quintessential British fruit and autumn is it's season, in fact, yesterday was National Apple Day with festivities all over the country to celebrate this fantastic plant.

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A quick look on the web shows that people were picking apples, tasting apples, going on autumn apple hunts through orchards, tree dressing, apple pressing, cider tasting and planting apple trees, among many other ways of celebrating our national love of apples.

After a summer of short shelflife strawberries, raspberries and other fruit and veg the apple season brings a sense of familiarity and comfort. Everyone likes apples, and everyone knows how to eat them and cook them from a steaming apple pie with custard or apple chutney with local pork through to just popping a few in a bag as a snack on an autumnal walk outside. They just feel right. We eat apples all year round and they often get forgotten or seen as a bit boring, but I love this time of year as it's the only time I can be sure to find lots of choice for UK grown apples, without having to check that my fruit hasn't been grown in Chili (on a side note I couldn't find any UK plums in the shops this weekend and was most disappointed).

What I'd love to have is an apple tree (or an orchard) of my very own. You can't get more local than your own back garden for food and apple tree's are brilliant all year round. The whitey-pink blossom of the spring heralds the start of warm weather and the fruit that grows through the summer ripens just in time to make the darker nights a bit more bearable as you snuggle up with a home grown, home cooked apple crumble. My parents house has a small solitary apple tree and on a good year there are more apples than our family can keep up with. Thankfully apples are versatile as well as yummy and can easily be stored without too much fuss. You can either stew and freeze them or simply wrap individual fruits in newspaper and pack into a dry cardboard box, storing them somewhere dry and dark. This means you can have fresh apples to eat and cooked apples ready to go into pies all winter. One day, in a bigger more green garden, I'll have my apple tree but for now I satisfy myself by watching how others grow them. There was a brilliant section on the BBC's Gardener's World last week about how to grow the tree's to get the best fruit without them taking over the whole garden. Have a look at the video here at 16 minutes 48 seconds in.

Apart from the self propagating varieties apples reply on insects such as bees and wasps to pollinate them so to get good apples we need to look after those insects that make the harvest possible. Last week I signed an e-petition organised by 38 Degrees asking the UK government to ban certain pesticides that harm bees. This seems like a no brainer really, we need bees to pollinate huge numbers of our crops and scientific evidence is showing that some chemicals we're using on our crops are killing the bees. Solution: stop using the chemicals.  I've talked about the plight of bee's on this blog before (here and wasps here) so if you haven't already signed the petition spend 30 seconds helping wildlife today by clicking here.
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Another piece of online campaigning I've been up to recently that might affect apple farmers is the RSPB's campaign on reforming the CAP (common agriculture policy) in Europe. This piece of legislation affects what money farmers get from tax payers and what they should be spending it on. I think farmers are amazing, mainly because they are much much better at producing food than me but also because they look after (or should look after) the majority of our countryside. So when I see fields full of lapwings or hedges with insects, birds and other wildlife thriving I often have farmers to thank. I think if farmers are getting some of my money through taxes it should go towards helping them make the countryside a better place, for wildlife, for the environment and for people and it should really reward farmers that are going above and beyond current requirements to protect our planet. So I emailed my MEPs ( some twice in fact) and asked them to make these policies stronger and better for wildlife friendly farmers. For more information of this topic have a look here and sign the petition too!

All this talk of apples is making me think of the only drink possibly better than mulled wine, and that's hot mulled cider. Some oranges and apples, a dash of brandy, cinamon sticks, apple juice, brown sugar, cloves and ginger added to hot cider is the best way to warm up on cold winter nights and is a brilliant idea for Christmas parties. With just over two months to go I'm already thinking of possible homemade Christmas gifts to give to friends and family and starting now saves money, gives me more time and means I can make sure my gifts are eco-friendly before the madness of Christmas hits and I start being drawn into buying plastic covered gifts that will be thrown away before June. If anyone's got any good ideas I'd love to hear them. But for now I think I'll just relax and enjoy a lovely British apple; because they're brilliant.


  1. Mulled cider??? Ooooh yuk yuk and double yuk!!!

    The lack of English plums is probably down to the bad weather and lack of bees (and other poliinators) doing their very important thing. but bad weather aside pesticides that kill off the bees etc too are not a very good idea - time for them to be removed from use as they have been in many other countries.



    1. It's delicious Dave! But so is pure fresh apple juice or cider too. Thanks for the comment!

      I agree with you about the bad weather and that when we do have bad years that chemicals that damage a lot of our "ecosystem services" such as natural pollinators and clean water just make a bad year worse. Let's hope the UK government will follow other European countries lead and bad the pesticides concerned.

  2. I agree with Jennifer - mulled cider is gorgeous! Lots in the news about pesticides and bees/pollinators at the moment - I must get on with signing that 38 Degrees petition. Great blog - I love apples, too, especially this time of year when my favourite russet varieties start appearing! Unlike you, I am fortunate enough to have space to grow an apple tree, so am looking for a tasty Cornish variety - any suggestion?!

  3. Thanks for the comment Amanda and welcome to the blog! Definitely sign the petition, it takes seconds. I don't have any apple variety expertise but maybe try this website for a few first ideas. Hope you find the perfect apple for your garden soon. Maybe in a few years you'll be brewing your own mulled cider!