Sunday, October 31, 2004

England's orchards are in a bad way

Great piece from the Guardian about the decline of England's orchards. Supermarkets demand standardised apples and a change in EU subsidies mean that the few orchards that continue to grow older varieties of apples will be under greater pressure to burn the trees and turn to a more lucrative form of agriculture.
Then you see it. It's the names. The names of the fallen. Foxwhelp, Sheep's Snout, Hogshead, Duck's Bill, Black Wilding, Brown Cockle, Monstrous Pippin, Burr Knot, Broadtail, Hagloe Crab, Eggleton Styre, Peasgood's Nonesuch, Tom Putt, Bitter-scale, Slack-my-girdle, Bastard Rough Coat, Bloody Turk. The list runs into thousands. It is a history of rural England, a poem in pomology, rough and bitter and sad.

Sprouting from every name is a tree of knowledge. Before I read this book, I thought an apple was something you picked and ate some time around October. Now I know the best dessert apples are those that must be stored for a month or more. There are some that aren't ready to come off the tree until December; others that are unfit to eat unless they've been in the cellar from October to March. There is one variety, the Winter Greening (Shakespeare's Apple-John), that can be kept for two years. There are apples that taste of aniseed, banana, pineapple, caraway, and apples that can't be eaten in any state, but are grown for making cider. Some are the size of walnuts: the smaller they are, Hogg and Bull contend, the better the cider.

Common Ground is a charity dedicated to preserving orchards in the form of Community orchards with a series of events to increase awareness of the treat to orchards. Whole pile of links here

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