Apple Day? What?

Today is, officially, Apple Day. A day to celebrate the British apple harvest.

Yeah, right. Not in this garden. It’s a shame; I miss my apples. They’re such a wonderful fruit – so useful, so tasty, so celebrated in myths, legends, stories, even going back to the earliest times; so generously abundant. Hm.

The photograph above, like almost all those in this post, was not taken this year. Normally I have something of an apple problem:

This was last year, and not a particularly good one for me, or so I thought. And then we had 2012.

Oh, it was fine in March – that eccentric warm spell brought everything into flower, including the apples.

But most of the insects hadn’t woken up so they weren’t being properly pollinated, and then it got cold. The blossom fell off and even my most prolific tree – above – sat and sulked. Dammit, even the crab apples sat and sulked. They don’t generally do that; they usually have so many apples on that we leave most of them on the trees for the birds, being content with a mere nine or ten large carrier bags bulging with perfect fruit.

So no jars of golden-pink crab apple jelly this year. No freezer full of crumble. Much to my shame, I’m buying apples. Buying, I ask you!

Maybe I forgot to wassail the trees at Christmas? I usually go out and give them a quick toast, and have even done it in snow, but I can’t remember if I did it last Christmas season. I’ve definitely displeased the apple gods, but at least it’s not just me. Forgetting to wassail your trees was always supposed to guarantee a poor harvest, so maybe the whole nation should start doing it again (except in the West Country, where I bet they’ve never stopped). So come Twelfth Night, I’ll be out there with a wee dram. I probably won’t sing to the trees, and I certainly won’t fire a gun up into them – both traditional ways of doing the business – and neither will I herald them with ‘blasts upon a cow-horn’, as one old book recommends. Noise is essential, but I usually manage to create that accidentally by tripping over roots in the dark (it’s best to do this sort of thing in the dark).

Perhaps I stripped the trees too completely? In parts of Yorkshire that’s bad; you’re supposed to leave a couple for the birds (possibly originally for the Fair Folk) and if you don’t, there’ll be trouble… no, it can’t be that superstition coming into play because of the crabs.

And it’s not just the produce I’m missing out on. Take knowing the future, for instance. Everyone knows the old games of fortune telling by means of apple skins, but I don’t imagine an apple from the shops would be quite as – er – knowledgeable as one from my own garden (and anyway I don’t want to know the initial of my future husband; seems a tad uninteresting once you’re over the age of, say, 18).

How about a cure for warts? Happily I don’t need that, but if I did I could just slice an apple in half, rub the wart with both halves, tie them back together and then bury them in the garden. Rheumatism? Apply a poultice of rotten apples (that’s especially effective, as well, if someone’s thumped you in the eye). Bit of a cough? Bake an apple and eat it with honey. Nose too red? Mop it with a decoction of apples. Fancy casting a spell to summon someone to you? Put twelve new pins in an apple and then put it on the fire.

Nah, I just can’t see an apple from Tesco cutting it in the same way. I must remember my whisky, my singing, my 12-bore and my cow’s horn and make a noise around my apple trees this coming January. And if the police arrive, I shall use this post in my defence.

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36 thoughts on “Apple Day? What?

  1. Dobby

    Seeing as I am such a good friend (well actually I just want some apples next year) , I will come and be arrested for breaching the peace with you!! The singing could be a problem as I am totally tone deaf, but will give it a go;-)

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I’m not sure if apple trees are selective in the sound they appreciate – judging by old tales, any noise is good and the more discordant the better. I’m sure I can drown you out with my cow’s horn, anyway 🙂

      Reply
  2. patientgardener

    Oh dear, I have never grown apples so I do really understand but I planted 3 step overs this year so I am hoping I might get to pick some apples in the next year or so. I think some wassaling is the way forward, or dancing by the moon although the neighbours may object

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I think I’ll stick with the wassailing – but if you fancy coming up to Wales and dancing in my garden one moonlit night, don’t let me stop you…

      Reply
  3. paulinemulligan

    I must have done something right down here in Devon, maybe I was wassailing in my sleep! Actually we have far fewer apples than usual, none to give away this year, but enough to last the winter for us. Our village was going to hold an Apple Day so we could all turn our excess apples into juice, you’ve guessed, it was cancelled!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I’d have settled for enough to get me through October!

      Some of my friends bought an apple press this year – they were going to have a try at cider making. I think they may have jinxed the whole crop….

      Reply
  4. croftgarden

    I do miss apples and all the other fruit trees! A supermarket apple of doubtful provenance is just not worth buying and I even have doubts about the Bramleys. I don’t have any trees to wassail, but I’ll put in an extra twirl round the Beltane fire.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Our local Co-op usually have good russets, so I’m hoping they will have managed some sort of harvest. But the rest – oh I do agree, they’re just bleagh. Woolly and generally tasteless. Grumble, grumble.

      Reply
        1. kate Post author

          Definitely – but at this time of year, would they come back?

          (I’ll settle for waiting for the Co-op’s russets, possibly more reliable. Only possibly, mind.)

        2. croftgarden

          The main problem is a shortage of heroes (bit like apples really). I asked Himself but he said he was too busy. I think the Co-op might be more reliable.

        3. kate Post author

          The co-op have come up trumps, so no need for heroes at all… (Probably just as well – inspired by you, I tried asking too. Same response.) Egremont Russets, and on special offer even!

        4. croftgarden

          I think we must have found an incognito hero for Egremonts arrived in our local Co-op too. Not quite magic golden apples but they tasted almost as good.

    1. kate Post author

      Hopefully the country will be full of wassailers this winter! This is the most bizarre year for top fruit – no pears, either….

      Reply
  5. Anna

    Those Tesco apples just don’t leave the same taste in your mouth do they? Here’s to some hearty wassailing and a happy and healthy crop in 2013.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      They do not. In many cases, I’d rather eat cardboard – is it the way they’re kept, or the fact that they’re not often picked when ripe, or is it just the bland, sugary-but-nothing-else varieties?

      And a healthy crop to you too!

      Reply
  6. wellywoman

    It was the first year of our espalier apple and had 6 fruit from it. I was a bit disappointed with this amount but I know I’m just being impatient and if my crap apple is anything to go by we’re lucky we got 6. The crab really is a shocker this year. When we planted the espalier Wellyman insisted we did a bit of a wassail and sprinkled some cider around the roots, even though it was March.
    We’re lucky enough to have a great supplier at our local farmers’ market of organic apples and pears. So we don’t go short but it hasn’t been a great year for him either so lets just hope for better weather and an easier year for all us growers in 2013.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Six is pretty impressive! I think Wellyman was right, and more wassailing this year will help even more (perhaps I should be traditional and go for cider rather than whisky).Unfortunately the bloke who sells fruit at our farmers’ market isn’t organic – I prefer organic fruit on pesticide grounds – and doesn’t have a brilliant selection either, himself…. bad year all round. Well, except for someone I know who has a tree that’s laden – but the apples don’t taste nice. Grumble again.

      Reply
  7. Crystal

    Most of my apple trees didn’t join in with Apple Day either this year. Except for one, a biennial fruiter, due to fruit this year, and it did, surprisingly. I don’t remember wassailing to it at Christmas. Maybe I did it in my sleep.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Ok, I take back my ‘apple murderer’. You’re just torturing the trees, then… 😉

      My mother had a similar tack with a reluctant pampas grass. She went out and explained to it in bloodcurdling terms what she intended to do to it. It went mad. And no, she didn’t get arrested. Am on my way to the trees.

      Reply
    1. kate Post author

      so you’ll be joining the wassailing, then, I expect…. I am surprised, I’d have thought you’d get more than enough. Funny old year…

      Reply

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