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.