Here are just a few among dozens of apple varieties displayed at last year’s Apple Day at Ripon’s Walled Garden. It’s where adults and young people with learning disabilities are supported into employment through the skills they learn in this wonderful garden environment.
It was Apple Day at Ripon’s Walled Garden on Saturday. We went along.
For me, it was a chance to revisit my childhood. Every Saturday, I’d go shopping with my mother to the Tachbrook Street Market. My favourite stall was the greengrocer’s. I’d try to add to my collection of prettily-decorated tissues used by the citrus fruit growers to wrap their produce. I’d wonder at expensive exotica such as lychees or passion fruit. But really, we’d come to buy.
And my mother taught me that apples aren’t simply apples. There was something new to look forward to every month in autumn. The eagerly anticipated first apple of all – the bright red Discovery, quickly followed by Beauty of Bath. The Cox’s Orange Pippin of course, which we had to shake: it wasn’t ripe unless the pips rattled. Blenheim Orange. Laxton’s Supreme. Laxton’s Superb. Worcester Pearmain. Charles Ross. James Grieve. Egremont Russet, which I always associated with Bonfire Night, but which nowadays is already in the shops. Ribston Pippin. Ellison’s Orange. I learnt to love them all: some sharp and juicy; others more mellow, slightly less crisp; white-fleshed; creamy-fleshed; small; large; knobbly; oval; round – such variety.
Many of these have all but disappeared from the shops. It’s all about large, white-fleshed, crisp apples. Jazz, Pink Lady, Granny Smith – even Cox all seem much of a muchness. And half the time, when apple season is at its peak in England, they aren’t even from the UK. Cookers these days are Bramley Seedlings. Excellent of course, but where are the Lord Derbys, the Newton Wonders, the Grenadiers?
In places like Ripon’s Walled Garden, that’s where. Look at my Rogue’s Gallery of all the varieties they still grow.
This display below piqued my interest. I recently read Tracey Chevalier’s At the Edge of the Orchard, a partly-true story which begins in Ohio in Pioneering days. A bit-part in the tale is played by an apple variety, Pitmaston Pineapple, that had been carefully brought over from Herefordshire. I’d never preciously heard of them, but … they’re still grown in Ripon. I tasted one. The so-called pineapple taste eluded me … but I was still glad to have eaten a little bit of history.
Ripon Walled Garden is Ripon’s best kept secret. It’s a a charity supporting young people and adults with learning difficulties to learn horticultural and catering skills in a sheltered environment. Come here for a delectable tea-and-cake moment or a light meal, made using their fresh garden produce: sit at a table in the shade of the old apple trees in the well-tended and colourful garden. You’ll go home refreshed and happy.
It’s been quite a year for blackberries. Fine juicy berries tumble from every bramble bush, staining our clothes and ruining our shoes. Even if, like me, you work on the principle of eating one berry for every two you collect for the pot, you’ll soon have more than you can realistically deal with.
Then there are apples. Kind friends have given us fruits carefully picked from their trees, but we consider these too fine to mix with other ingredients. When we have jellies and compotes to make, we prefer to rescue windfalls from back lanes in the village, cut away the bruises and discard the insecty bits.
This year, we have two best uses for blackberries, and for apples too.
This is a blackberry bakewell tart. The recipe is from the wonderful Mrs. Portly, and her recipe called for raspberries. I used blackberries instead, and my greedy family demolished the lot in a single sitting.
Much of the rest of our harvest has been used for blackberry and apple jelly. We no longer eat jam, but the intense flavour, and rich ruby colouring of this jelly is pure essence of blackberry, and a souvenir of late summer days in the dreary dark days of winter. It’s really worth making a few pots.
Take equal quantities of blackberries and apples. Roughly chop the apples, which you needn’t core or peel, and place in a pan, barely covering the fruit with water. Bring to a simmer till the apple softens and the juices run from the berries: 10 – 15 minutes.
Strain the juices through a jelly bag, or through a muslin-lined sieve for several hours. Measure the juice. Although I usually cook in metric, at this point, I go all avoirdupois, and work exclusively in pounds and ounces and pints. It just seems to work better for me.
Return the extract to the pan with the juice of a lemon, and for every pint of juice, add a pound of granulated sugar. Stir till the sugar has dissolved and boil rapidly till a ‘jell’ is obtained on testing. If you’re new to making jelly or jam, this article is helpful.
Our blackberry jelly will taste all the better because we had help from grandson William, aged two. He gathered berries, and hunted for windfalls. He’s a London child, and his parents were keen for him to help with any job not available to him in a city park.
His parents have taken a pot of jelly back to London as a souvenir, of course.