In the UK Autumn is well underway. The trees have been turning all shades of gold, orange, amber and red for some time. But now that the rain and wind has come, the leaves are blowing horizontally off their branches to cover the pavements, fields and gardens.
My precious Japanese maple tree, sheltered from the weather between the wall and the fence outside my window, is absolutely aflame with red leaves. While those at Westonbirt Arboretum are sensational as always.
But my fruit trees are now just skeletons of their former selves. The apple trees look so ordinary and drab there is no hint that 2015 was the best apple season for 20 years or more! We had perfect conditions for them due to the mild winter and warm spring. Spring was followed by gentle rains then a gorgeous hot early summer. This weather combination produced masses of blossom very early and with plenty of bees around to pollinate the seeds, an abundance of fruits developed.
In my garden the apple trees are trained in the ancient way, horizontally along wires beside a fence. It’s called Espalier and makes picking the fruit very easy. It also helps with pruning which I do quite drastically each year because the best fruit grows on the older branches.
I think these apple trees must be over 40 years old. The thick trunks are gnarled and misshapen, but the fruit is fabulous. One of the trees is a local early eating variety called Worcester Pearmain. The apples are small, crisp and wonderfully juicy. They taste sweet but not cloying, almost with a strawberry flavour. I haven’t managed to store them well so I use them all up in desserts, cakes and picnic boxes. The grandchildren love them and eat them straight from the tree. When I have a glut of apples, like this year, I put a big basket outside on the garden wall with a sign saying ‘help yourself’. It would grieve me if any were truly wasted, but of course there are always damaged windfalls. The birds and squirrels love those and feast on them.
My other tree is a Bramley apple tree. This is by far the best cooking apple around. It has been grown commercially in the UK for over 200 years but probably a lot longer in orchards and country gardens. The fruits grow really big, firm and juicy. They are tart to taste but when cooked they have a sensational flavour. I make lots of Dorset Apple Cakes, Blackberry and Apple Crumbles and Apple Charlotte. For my Charlotte I just slice up the apples then drizzle them with lemon and lay them in a deep ovenproof dish. I then melt some butter, and whizz up some breadcrumbs in my grinder. I mix brown sugar into the breadcrumbs and maybe a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg. Then I just sprinkle the breadcrumbs and sugar over the lemony apples, and drizzle them with melted butter (quite generously!) I repeat these layers a couple of times and finish by sprinkling lemon rind and brown sugar on top of the last layer of breadcrumbs. Pop this in the oven until it looks golden brown and the smell is mouth-watering. Then eat it with loads of cream or custard or icecream. That’s a real treat!
The apples that are left over, I cook down and freeze for apple pies or apple sauce, which will keep us healthy over the winter. Enjoy the life cycle of my apple trees through my photos ~