The Ripeness and the Harvest

The Ripeness and the Harvest

There is a wild abundance in our fruit garden at the moment particularly on the top fruits. Though the late summer has been poor the early part of the year was good for pollination with plenty of fine warm days that started early and no frosts to speak of. This meant that the flowers and reproductive parts of the plants were undamaged and that foraging insects had plenty of opportunity to do their work. This meant a good fruit set and because ripening takes place over a long period the cold, wet, dark summer has not affected the ripening.

Plums, damsons, apples and pears are weighing down the branches. But what to do with all this abundance? I know that I have extolled the virtues of preserving fruit with alcohol before but winter is coming! I like to use fruit as much as possible especially with meat. Try mixing together some mustard and honey and spreading it over chicken pieces. Pour some oil in a roasting tin and put in a couple of onions and half a dozen dessert plums such as ‘Victoria’ which you have halved and stoned. Add some fresh thyme and roast for 30-40 minutes and serve with mashed potatoes or polenta.  Of course the classic dish has to be the crumble and I’m sure that there are
as many different takes on this classic as there are people out there making it. To me you can’t beat apples from the garden (whether they are dessert or cooking it doesn’t seem to matter) and blackberries from the hedgerows around.

If you don’t yet have a fruit tree then you should think about planting one. Even if you have a small garden there are dwarfing varieties of apples and
pears on the market and you should find a good selection at your local nursery. There are also many varieties suitable for containers. The very best time to plant is when the trees are dormant and leafless from late October to March. This means that you have time now to be looking in catalogues from mail order suppliers, online or at the nursery to find what you want. Great as it is to have one of everything or to go for the unusual it is better to grow what you will use the most. There are many multi-purpose varieties of apple that are available.

Apples are one of the easiest tree fruits to cultivate and they make a good looking garden tree as well as a useful one. The blossom is pink and white and the fruit can be used in many different ways. ‘James Grieve’ is one such variety which is excellent for cooking or eating straight from the tree. So called ‘Family’ trees are also available which have several varieties are grafted onto one rootstock. Buy one from a good nursery as the vigour of each variety needs to be matched if the resulting tree is to grow evenly. If you are planting a whole orchard it is better to dig over the whole area and plant all at the same time but if you are just adding one or two fruit trees then dig individual holes. Make sure that the hole you dig is wider and deeper than the rootball and then you can fill in the gaps with soil enriched with organic matter. Firm the soil down gently and water well. Don’t forget to support your new trees. Whether bare root or pot grown the trees will need staking for their first year and dwarf trees will need strong stakes for their whole life. If you are thinking of buying already trained trees then they will need support on wires, trellis or fences.

What more can I say except “Eat, Drink and Be Merry!”

Ross Underwood