Today’s the day for gathering in our orchard harvest:
the celebration known across the land as Apple Day. It’s actually a fairly recent ‘tradition’ but a great one which is thankfully growing in size, status & enthusiasm every year, heightening awareness of the link between the food we eat & living well with nature. Activities take place throughout UK orchards from cider-tastings, pie baking & fruit press demonstrations to dunking for apples & even archery demonstrations à la William Tell (albeit with straw dummies rather than real boys – though perhaps this would be a healthy way to focus the minds of some errant little ‘darlings’ if we used young offenders instead…..?). However, despite the mirth & merriment, all in the garden (or orchard) is not as rosy as it might appear….
On the face of it, it’s been an excellent year: the combination of sunshine & showers has swelled the abundant fruit, the boughs of the trees groaning under their weight. However, thanks to our modern shopping culture, in recent years the number of apple varieties has plummeted with supermarkets more interested in shelf life & unblemished, uniform appearance, than with taste & texture. Subsequently, our traditional orchards are being grubbed out, like so many things destroyed due to commercial pressure.
But surely, the consumer asks, so long as apples are still grown it doesn’t really make a difference? Well actually, it does. Our traditional orchards, with their wide variety of tree types are crucial environments for biodiversity, having a far more abundant range of species of invertebrates & insects than do modern commercial orchards. This is because they are rich in different wood decay habitats,with different varieities encouraging a wider range of flora & fauna.
So, what can we do about it? Well, if you’re lucky enough to have your own orchard – as we are – plant as wide a variety of unusual, traditional species as you can, avoiding mainstream commercial varieties (you’ll find the traditional ones have far more taste, texture & crunchiness as well as greater visual appeal – something different, for a change). Or plant a dwarf apple tree in a big patio pot if you have a small garden (make sure it’s a self-pollinating variety though, or you’ll be disappointed).
Alternatively, support producers at your local farmers’ market, or sign up to a veg box scheme, you’ll be delighted at the quality & flavour of what you get & may even find you waste less – it tastes better, so is more appetizing! Or even just lobby your local supermarket to stock some traditional varieties, thus improving customer choice into the bargain – if we all sent a simple email, it could make such a difference.
And did you know, that what you might believe is a fresh apple in the supermarket, may have been in storage for up to a year before it reaches your shopping basket? Food for thought, when you’re next picking out an apple from the supermarket shelves….
When it comes to the crunch, you can’t beat a flavoursome, juicy traditional variety of apple, picked straight from the tree. Bloomin’ delicious!
Apple harvest apart, it’s been the usual hectic Sunday: it often seems our busiest day, as opposed to the quietest which it should be for everyone else (we hope). I spent the afternoon rushing around Carmarthen, replenishing exhausted feed stocks not only for all the animals – but also for us. I bought Mum another guilt-ridden belated birthday present as well as a present & a caterpillar cake for Michelle & Neil’s little girl Erin (three years old today!) as the family are coming to stay with us tomorrow for a couple of days. Because I had to go into the town centre, I indulged in a brief visit to the local bookshop & bought myself a couple of paperbacks plus a ‘market research’ book on smallholding – though regrettably this has to be my last actual purchase of a novel as I can no longer afford the indulgence; however the local library sends a van round every week, & I can also call in after Welsh class to the well-stocked little building – so not entirely a hardship I suppose.
What really struck me, was that last time I visited the town centre on a Sunday afternoon – many months ago – almost all the shops had been open; however since the central, standard Tesco supermarket was closed to be superceded by a much larger ‘Express’ store on the outskirts of town, business for everyone else seems to have virtually ground to a halt. This is yet another reason – dare I say – NOT to supply a large & unsympathetic chain, with our cheese & ice cream…..after all, do they care one iota about the damage they have evidently done to this community? On the other hand, perhaps it’s about time we returned to traditional values where the shops were closed on a Sunday?
We finished the chores long after the sun had set over the silent valley, privileged to witness another beautiful sunset at the close of another busy day – with a perfect ending, cuddled up in front of the fire with Tony, the apple of my eye.