How sad am I? Learning the authentic names of our “heritage” apples was rather thrilling!
Thanks to Chris Bird of Sparsholt Horticultural college (near Winchester), we learned that apple trees over 50 years old are deemed heritage. Ours are remnants of a Victorian orchard that pre-dates the 1890s house by at least 20 years.
Many modern apple varieties are often self-fertile whereas older ones tend to fall into one of four different pollination groups. With the help of bees and other insects, they will cross-pollinate with other trees in the adjacent group so the most popular trees were those in group 3: able to pollinate with both 2 and 4 which explains why many orchards were a mix of trees.
The College is undertaking a major research project (DNA and all) into such trees in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Rather than somewhat boring Golden Delicious, our yellow apples, each with one or two ridges from stalk to top, are much older Emneth Early culinary (cooking) apples. The other cookers are more esoteric than the usual Bramley: Victorian Lord Grosvenor and Lord Derby varieties. The Cox’s Orange Pippin was highly commended for great colour although our fruit was sadly subject to “bitter pit” due to not enough water or calcium! We even sneaked in a couple given to us by French friends in Normandy: Ashmead’s Kernel and Lord Lambourne look-alikes.
He gave tips for pruning: cut out dead, disease, damaged and crossing/congested once the leaves have fallen from full-size trees. You don’t need to worry about cavities but might prune to reduce the weight and risk of breaks. Even fallen apple trees are able to regenerate as they send up new growth.
Seaweed is excellent nutrition for apple trees and is applied around the “drip-line” (below the outer edge of the branches as the root structure mirrors the tree shape) twice a year just after the leaves have dropped and just before they bud again. Sticky bands are good for winter moth whereas pheromone traps sort out the male coddling moths.
Apples are best stored at about 3-5C, don’t need wrapping in paper and should be stalk down. I need to revisit my mushroom trays in the shed and get them the other way up.
I learned lots about old, big apple trees but he had tips galore for those dwarf patio trees, espalier and more.
Meanwhile, I’m still getting the odd windfall and made this quick apple sponge:
1 tablespoon honey.
3 firm eating apples, cored and sliced.
3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced.
same weight butter.
same weight honey or sugar.
same weight self-raising flour.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Generously smear the sides and bottom of a 9-inch silicone mould with butter and add a tablespoon of honey.
Layer the eating apples around the base and top with any remaining pieces of the butter.
Layer with the cooking apple slices, retaining about eight slices.
Whisk the butter and honey until light and fluffy.
Whisk in each egg separately with a teaspoon of flour and then fold in the remaining flour and vanilla extract.
Pour the mix on the top of the apples, thumping the whole cake mould on the work surface a few times so the mix settles amongst some of the apple.
Decorate the top with the remaining slices of apple.
Place on a pre-heated tray at 180C, Gas 4 for 30 minutes.
Cover with a double layer of foil and cook for another 20 minutes.
Switch off the oven and let the cake continue to firm as it cools.
Turn-out upside-down on a plate once cool.
Free on-line Christmas pudding cooking demo – laugh as blind cook struggles to cover the puds: