26 Oct 2008

Humphreys End Orchard part 2

Yesterday I blogged about our wonderful afternoon in Humphreys End Orchard picking and juicing apples - some 50 people plus joined in - for those who missed it and are interested we will again be doing it on Saturday 8th November 2pm to 5ish - but more exciting there are some long term plans for the orchard being explored - see below and also details of how to store apples and a bit of history re the orchard....

Sat 8th Nov

Julia Currie, the landowner is kindly opening her gates again to her orchard at the bottom of Ruscombe road (Bread Street) for folk to pick apples and get involved with trying some juicing. Several folk like Guy from Bread Street and myself will help with shaking trees - large sacks will be provided and when filled that will be £5 or bring your own carrier bags - supermarket size filled will be £2. Please call Julia 01453 764376 if you need any information especially re parking and juicing. Bring helmets!! A bike helmet would be good as some of the apples falling are seriously heavy - one split on my glasses leaving smears of juice another hit me full on the chest and a third on my head - one child also had one on the nose - no serious injuries but be warned apple picking can be dangerous!!

Something about this orchard

It has about 20 mature old trees and 25 planted saplings of Gloucestershire varieties. All unsprayed - here below is some info from Julia's leaflet:

This orchard has been in my family’s ownership (Martin) for at least 2 centuries. Unfortunately I know little about its earlier history, but it stems from a time when every village had its orchards and local residents were involved in the harvesting and use of the fruit.

In recent years English orchards have been in serious decline – the power of the supermarkets has led to the virtual eclipse of our thousands – yes thousands - of native apples. However, in the last few years we have thankfully begun to see not only the rescuing of these wonderful apple varieties, but a growth in demand for them. Farmers markets and local growers have fought back. Thankfully, due to this fight back, we have saved over 100 varieties of Gloucestershire apples

Over the last 6 years I have been restoring the orchard, pruning and cutting back overgrown trees and planting new ones. That process is ongoing, and you will be able to see all the 18 saplings at different stages of growth. All are local or Gloucestershire varieties with one or two exceptions and include Stroud’s own apple the Lodgemore. It will be some years before the saplings bear fruit of any quantity, but in the meantime, we can enjoy their growth and know that this wonderful orchard is providing a wild life haven for birds, insects and bats.

Some of the many things that orchards are good for:

- The trees are beautiful all year round with blossom in spring and fruit in autumn. The wood is great for fires and smells lovely

- Old orchards are a very important wildlife habitat for birds, insects, bats and fungi

- Orchards provide us with links to our past where they existed in every village and farm. They have provided us with sources for our language, poetry, songs, stories, art and games

- Today they can provide us with local varieties of fruit and juice, unavailable in supermarkets, and recreation and community activities in community orchards or where owners give access

And Now the Future

Here is more info from Julia's leaflet about plans:

I am hoping to increase community involvement in the orchard eg by renting or sponsoring the trees, planting new ones, sharing the produce, sharing in the maintenance and using the orchard for community activities.

If you are interested, please join us on the next open Saturday or call me on 755451.

Storage of your apples

This is something several people asked about - some of the apples from this orchard will store through to the new year. Again Julia had produced some useful info for novices like myself plus a recipe sheet:

· Ideally, store apples in a draught-free place such as a cellar, attic, garden shed, or unheated spare bedroom, away from bright light. Keep cool, preferably at below 45° F (7° C), and avoid fluctuations in temperature. Store in shallow, slatted trays, not quite touching, on newspaper and put sheets of paper between the rows. Trays can be stacked. Label each tray with the name of the variety .Examine fruits frequently for rot

· Another way – keep on flat surface on newspaper, slightly apart

· Alternatively, wrap apples individually in paper (colour supplement seems to work particularly well; let us hope the inks are not toxic), and put them in cardboard boxes which are then shut up. This seems to prevent the fruit shriveling, and keeps out the mice and rats (which can often be a problem).

· Fruit for cooking and jams can be deep-frozen. Some people blanch it first, others just freeze it. Use small freezer bags; otherwise a big load has to be defrosted just to get enough for a single pie.

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