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Eye of the Apple

posted 6 Aug 2012, 03:05 by Rosemary Russet

On a golden evening in the last week of July, five orchard members were being photographed (for a book on allotments) while harvesting loganberries and doing other light seasonal tasks such as thinning fruit.  The photographer complimented us on the impressive amount of apples – a startling comment – as this year many of our trees have no fruit at all.  The wet, windy, and cold weather we experienced in April and May fell during the weeks when most of our trees were in blossom.  Pollinating insects were discouraged by the sodden conditions – preventing the cross-pollination necessary for many orchard trees. 

It hasn’t been a total washout.  Our orchard is planted with more than 60 different apple, pear and plum varieties, ranging across the spectrum from the very early (Beauty of Bath) to the very late (D’Arcy Spice).  Such diversity ensures that, even in a poor year, some trees will do well enough.  This year it’s the turn of the earlier apples to shine, along with the handful of later bloomers that flowered during May’s brief dry spell. 

Last year’s abundant bounty was a feast compared to the slender pickings of 2012.  Harvest-share members of the orchard who eat only local-grown fruit are in for a lean year.  This direct experience of the vulnerabilities of food production may encourage an appreciation of less celebrated fruits.  In practice this means using those tart and tiny apple thinnings for jelly making, and learning to love brambles for their tenacious profusion.  And, when taking a first bite of a fully ripe George Cave apple, being grateful for its refreshing flavour, while minding its fleeting season.