Monday, 7 September 2009

The apples are here!

Apple season again and, while the newspapers lament the decline of British varieties, I'm looking forward to tasting some favourites, in particular Ashmead's Kernel and Blenheim Orange, though we'll have to wait a while for those. You can eat locally-grown apples pretty much from August to May, but the finest fruits are those that mature the longest on the tree. I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere...

Some lovely books out there on apples and cider, among them the fabulous and original 'Man-made Eden'.

OK, I"m biased, but this is the first ever history of orchards and it passed muster with Joan Morgan, apple expert extraordinaire and author of 'The New Book of Apples'. She described it as "a thought provoking, engaging and informative book that everyone interested in the countryside will enjoy."

For an introduction to the book, why not have a look at 'Orchard Country', the feature I wrote for Geographical magazine.

In the spirit of fairness I should mention James Crowden's wonderful book 'Ciderland', follow-up to 'Cider - the Forgotten Miracle'. In some ways I like the earlier book better, perhaps because it's a bit looser and more spontaneous.

'The Common Ground Book of Orchards' is also a must-read, more focused than 'England in Particular' and illustrated with exquisitely earthy photos by the late James Ravilious. If you haven't come across Common Ground before you should check them out. Sue and Angela's writing about landscape and culture is hard to beat.

The subject of orchards and apples can get rather depressing, given the continuing decline of small-scale fruit growing. But there is a simple way to support the growing of old varieties: BUY APPLES, JUICE AND CIDER! Farmers' markets, car boot sales and farm shops are your best bet.

Cover pic by Stephen Morris. Published by Redcliffe Press.

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