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.


36 Comments Add yours

  1. Cathy says:

    I think the singing is crucial Kate – you DEFINITELY have to sing!!! Better have 2 wee drams!!

    1. kate says:

      I think I better hand the whisky out to the neighbours instead!

  2. Dobby says:

    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;-)

    1. kate says:

      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 🙂

      1. Dobby says:

        That sounds like a challenge to me!!

        1. kate says:

          OK… she said, nervously….

  3. patientgardener says:

    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

    1. kate says:

      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…

  4. VP says:

    Yep, we’re still wassailing here in the West Country. And guess what I’ve got 🙂

    1. kate says:

      HRUMPF. That’s the key, then….

  5. paulinemulligan says:

    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!

    1. kate says:

      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….

  6. croftgarden says:

    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.

    1. kate says:

      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.

      1. croftgarden says:

        What wouldn’t I give for a real apple. Obviously in need of a hero/heroine to send to Hesperides

        1. kate says:

          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 says:

          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 says:

          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 says:

          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.

        5. kate says:

          Between us, we may clear the shelves! (so good with cheese – yum)

  7. hillwards says:

    Must remember to wassail our young trees next year then. We had *ONE* Kidd’s Orange Red and something beat us to our single Spartan fruit.

    1. kate says:

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

  8. Anna says:

    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.

    1. kate says:

      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!

  9. wellywoman says:

    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.

    1. kate says:

      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.

  10. Crystal says:

    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.

    1. kate says:

      I think you must have! Lucky, lucky…

  11. Err, you could just make plans to remove the apple trees and then they will absolutely produce loads of apples, worked for me, but a bit of wassailing wont go amis either! 🙂

    1. kate says:

      But I don’t want to get rid of them (apple murderer)…

  12. PS … (Obviously you are only pretending to make plans to remove the trees, just dont tell the trees that)

    1. kate says:

      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.

  13. Christina says:

    Better luck next year – as with everything in the gardening world! Christina

    1. kate says:

      It’s such a year for wishing people better luck, isn’t it? You do have to be philosophical when you’re a gardener…

  14. Us too! We have manageable apples this year instead of enough to make me contemplate a small cider press. Mind you I didnt do much on the wassailing front.

    1. kate says:

      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…

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