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Once bitten, forever smitten

posted 6 Nov 2012, 03:43 by Rosemary Russet   [ updated 8 Nov 2012, 13:28 by Julie Nuckey ]

The highlight of our orchard calendar is Apple Day. Celebrated nationally on October 21, this year it fell on a convenient Sunday.  Rosemary remembers the very first Apple Day organised in 1990 by Common Ground in Covent Garden, London. The strange poetry of unfamiliar names spoke of the astonishing diversity of British apples. Tasting fruits of a more aromatic flavour than the commonly available varieties was a mind-opening experience. Ashmead’s Kernel remains favourite, though a joy of our orchard is the range of different fruits to sample at our tasting table. When asked: “Where can I buy these apples?” the answer often is they are not generally for sale. There are other solutions: plant a garden tree or two; join, or set up, a community orchard; cherish and buy unusual fruit whenever you have the chance.

Apple Day has taken root as a calendar festival – as Common Ground hoped. Their long and inspiring campaign for distinctive and local fruits awakened shifts in food culture, and, to a lesser extent, in agriculture. Orchards of tall trees continue to decline, and new orchard plantings tend to suit the intensive, and often, chemical-dependent methods demanded by supermarket quality controllers. As consumers we seem too easily seduced by unblemished fruits, and happy enough to buy the blander offerings of commercial growers who favour fruits genetically designed to retain their characteristics during long, artificial cold-storage.

Along with a growing number of apple-loving activists Rosemary has searched out, eaten, cooked and catered, and grown English apples and other fruits, during the 22 years since that first ‘one-off’ event.  Apple Day continues to be a wonderful way to celebrate and learn that variety and richness matter, and that it is possible to make change for the good. Growing and eating fruit connects us to nature and to culture, and intertwines the two to enrich our life on this earth. 

A visitor to Apple Day 2012 reminded us that October 21st is the birthday of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived and wrote in Nether Stowey, Somerset.

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