Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Cox's Orange Pippin

I once swore I would never grow a cox. Having had a friend who had one in his Oxford garden, I decided it wasn't worth growing. The tree never set any fruit, was prone to powdery mildew and sat in the middle of the garden looking sad and unhealthy. I felt life was just too short to bother with such a sensitive grower.

I had a few spare rootstock cuttings, and just for the sake of it, pocketed a bit of grafting wood from my in-laws Cox. The graft took, I bunged it into a space last autumn, and now I have a Cox cordon. I would have taken this fruit off the maiden tree if I hadn't been distracted by the trauma of bereavement, but at last, I have my first, home-grown cox. Only about 18 inches tall, but growing strongly.

It will be an interesting experiment, as all of the other apples are healthy and virtually disease free under local conditions.

Evaluation:Meeches Prolific

Hugely disappointing again this year. I've come to the conclusion quinces simply aren't happy being trained.

This variety is way behind Vranja in readyness. The couple of fruits are still quite immature and covered with down, though they never attain the size of other quince varieties.

I've decided that this one is coming out next year, to be replanted elsewhere as a bush.

Crop: Sucrée de Montluçon

Decided to pick the remaining Sucree de Montluçon as they were falling quite rapidly. A very heavy crop from less than a metre length of step-over 3.4 kg, 7.5 lbs, as much as some full-sized cordons have produced. 

Although the flavour has been describe as: "fine, melting and juicy, gritty...very juicy and very sweet, winey, tart, flavour with a delicate perfume* " I have never found it this good. The flesh is quite coarse and 'marrowy', slightly gritty with a bland sweet flavour with little acidity. To be fair, the only summers that it has produced fruit have been terrible ones. Best cooked green. Next year I will thin ruthlessly and just keep 6-8 for exhibition, as they do attain a large size, and have nice smooth skins free from any disease or blemishes.

The Mystery Pear

Finally tasted the mystery pear today. I'm inclined to think it must be a sport of Dr Jules as it has a similar flavour. Sweet, juicy, somewhat coarse and granular but with a distinct flavour of pear drops. Possibly a more buttery quality than the original. Skin - slightly rough like other russeted pears, but reasonably thin with no trace of bitterness though a pleasant acidity. Difficult to make a direct comparison, as I picked my sole Dr Jules a little too early, and this a little too late. Ripened a good 6 weeks later than the parent.

Not sure how marketable it would be as a new variety, this part of the season is not short of nice cultivars, but I will graft it on and make enquiries.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Crop: Vranja

A modest crop of Vranja, 3.5 kgs, nearly 8lbs. Probably as many as we need for our own purposes, though miserly for size and age of tree.

These will be used for jelly.

Found several harlequin ladybirds nesting in the eyes of the fruit, reported to The Harlequin Survey

Crop: Comice

A decent innings for Comice this year; 5 kgs picked today, plus I missed a couple at the top of the tree and have eaten a couple, so total is probably about 6 kgs, 14 lbs. All good quality, of large-size, with no damage to any of them. So large, they will not fit in the compartments of my storage trays.

All three varieties are single trees, grown as double oblique cordons on QC rootstocks.

Re. storage, I find the fruit boxes from Lidl's excellent. They even have ones with trays specifically for large pears. I've even been known to BUY pears from Lidl's when we have run out, as the imported Abbé Fetel variety they sell out of season is one of the nicest commercial varieties; similar to Concorde, it is far superior to the ancient cold-stored conference or imported green Barletts sold by all the other supermarkets. Abbé Fetel does need quite careful storage otherwise it can 'go over' very quickly; I keep mine in the fridge. 

Crop: Concorde

The yield of Concorde a little dissapointing, as usual. 4.2kg today, probably 5kg (11lbs)  in total including those eaten/damaged. What Conference gives in quantity, Concorde makes up in quality. Probably one of my favourite mid-season ones, I prefer this one to Comice.

Crop: Conference

Decided to pick the remaining mid-season pears today, as the squirrel damage was getting out of hand.

I weighed today's picking of Conference which came to about 10.5 kgs. Including the ones that have been eaten already, or discarded because of damage, the whole crop from this double cordon was about 12 kg in total, about 26 lbs. Far more than we can eat, my husband will have to take some with him on his weekly egg round.

Friday, 25 September 2009

More squirrel damage

Several more apples and pears with single bites taken out and clearly visible tooth marks. All way to early to ripen before brown rot sets in. I wonder how often birds get blamed for pecking fruit when the real culprits are squirrels. The trap goes out first thing tomorrow!!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Cup is back again...

The Kirkley Trophy for outstanding fruit exhibit is back home with us again. Not sure how much we deserve it looking at this photo, but all classes were quite well subscribed this year. It is getting expensive having it engraved each time!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Flavour: Coe's Golden Drop

The reputation for being the best of plums is well-deserved. Like an apricot dipped in honey; rich, juicy, sweet. Small crop but then my other plums produce similarly small crops in this soil. Evenly ripened this time (sometimes a single patch can remain hard and unripe).

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Crop: Vranja

The quinces have started falling, so I decide to pick them slightly earlier than I'd have chosen. The windfalls all seem to have slight damage around the stem, probably wasps. Brown rot has then set in and caused them to fall. Plus I wanted some for the 'any other fruit variety' at the village show.

Quince jelly making isn't my favourite task, probably involves the hardest work of all jams but the result is highly worthwhile. I might poach them in my rose-petal wine, as though flavourful it's a little too odd as a desert wine in itself.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Doyenne de Comice

A heavy crop of Comice this year. Some of the fruit is beginning to yellow slightly on the tree, so I think now is the time to start picking. Also, time to select some for the village show on Sunday. There are a number of very large, flushed ones that have few blemishes, so perhaps they will be in with a chance of winning the cup again this year.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Evaluation: Gorham

Another first crop and another pleasant surprise. Gorham has some rather disparaging descriptions in catalogues, but I found it a good quality pear with a nice flavour. Very sweet, very juicy when fully ripe, slightly granular flesh with a trace of buttery quality. Skin quite thin, with no trace of bitterness.

Slightly more acid than some, it poached very nicely, with a distinct 'tinned pears' flavour, but with much better desert qualities than a Bartlett type.  I'm glad, as the crop is about 2.5 kgs. Follows on nicely from Fondante d'Automne, of which only the last few are left. Seems to keep quite well, unlike some early pears which ripen and go over very quickly. Excellent, duel-purpose, heavy-croping pear with good, compact growth habit and no disease problems.

So far, not a day without fresh pears since the Morettini crop started to ripen in early August.

Flavour: Devoe

Tried some of the later-ripening Devoes, and found they had ripened much more nicely than the earlier ones, left too long on the tree. These had a good flavour, crisp and very sweet. Skin was a little tough and papery, but with no trace of bitterness. On balance, very much like Conference but with a potential for greater sweetness if sufficiently ripened, but less 'richness'. Like other calebasse pears, needs to be picked under-ripe rather than left on the tree.

Flavour: Bishop's Thumb

I picked my first crop of these yesterday, and the result's are a little surprising. This pear has quite a distinct apple flavour. Sweet, juicy and a little granular, with the sort of 'pear drops' flavour usually described in apples, but rarely found in actual pears. Skin quite thin, a little tough, though with no bitterness. Flesh coarse, granular without being gritty. A pleasant surprise. Fruit ripened to yellow with an attractive red flush. Husband has peeled some of them without asking, so not as many to photograph.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Evaluation: Tydeman's Early Worcester

This is a bit harsh, but I think this is the worst apple variety I grow (after the one I suspect to be Sturmer pippin). I've given it quite a few years of grace now, but each crop has been disappointing.

Let's start off with flavour. The skins, though attractive and reasonably thin, are bitter. The flavour on first bite is not too bad, but soon the bitter, slightly tannic quality emerges. Even when peeled, the bitterness is still detectable and slightly astringent. The flesh has a soft, slight strawberry taste if well-ripened, but without sufficient sweetness or acidity to counter the bitter skin quality. Very occasionally a single fruit will ripen well (probably the king fruits), but the ones that don't can taste vile. 

Taking a bite from a tree-ripened Worcester Pearmain just after eating a Tydeman's Worcester, the fruit is much sweeter in comparison, with pleasantly fruity level of acid and a pleasantly fragrant pear-drops flavour; rather more aromatic than expected. The flesh is quite crisp, and I think probably keeps rather better than Tydeman's (though I never finish the latter in all honesty; most end up as chicken food).

TEW is also very susceptible to wasp damage, and the earliest, best-ripened fruits will probably be wasted. The tree habit isn't great either (mine is a small half-standard on M26), quite whippy and inclined to bend/break under the weight. Cropping is good, but then what is the point if the fruit isn't very nice? If you like early, fruity, soft-fleshed red apples, Devonshire Quarrenden has a better flavour.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Asian Pear: Shinsui

Just a postscript to previous comments about Shinsui. I left the remaining fruits on the tree for as long as possible (in fact too long, as most dropped off overnight a couple of days ago). Flavour was certainly improved for leaving as long as possible, with a definite fragrant, quite rich pineapple-like flavour (like one that is very over-ripe and has lost all acidity). 

Shinsui is a very decorative tree, free from disease and so far hardy and heavy cropping. The fruit keeps a very long time in storage, eventually going brown and soft from the middle. However, I'd only plant it if you like Asian pears or are a fruit variety 'completionist'; they can be something of an acquired taste, and are sometimes fairly insipid (much sweeter/richer than those available in Chinese supermarkets). My feelings are less mixed than they were though.

Two characterics of Shinsui mentioned in catalogues are it's light crops and self-sterility. I have had a heavy crop every year since the tree was a maiden, so much so that the branches can be inclined to break. My tree is fairly isolated from the other pears, and Shinsui is one of the first to flower and yet pollination is excellent. Either the bees are doing a wonderful job commuting between this tree and far-distant other early pears, or is it in fact partially self-fertile? I will experiment with covering/hand pollinating a section next year just as an experiment.

Pears: Summer pruning

Before and after pruning shots of Winter Nelis and Glou Morceau. Winter Nelis has a particularly effusive, weeping habit which tends to shade the fruit a lot, although this doesn't seem to affect fruit quality that much. However, it looks untidy and pruning the excess growth now also means fewer leaves to sweep up later on. It will also allow light in to help ripen the Glou Morceau fruits, which need all the warmth and light they can get. 

Pruning revealed rather more Winter Nelis fruits than I'd been expecting. This variety is inclined to produce a lot of spurs close together, and my usual approach is to prune back to just one rather than allow a cluster of spurs to develop.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Crop: Quince Vranja

At last, a heavy crop from my half-standard quince Vranja. I had attempted to keep it fairly compact in previous years, but this had an adverse effect on fruiting. The tree would flower and set fruit well, but the fruitlets would drop after about a month. All three fruits (plus a couple of others not in view) are on a single rather spindly branch. I'm not quite sure why attempting to spur prune should affect fruiting in such a way, but the difference since letting the tree have it's own way is staggering. Unfortunately it's obscuring part of my view of the lake.

Reinette Rouge Etoilée

The Reinette Rouge is finally 'étoilée' - the little russet stars have eventually developed, and the colour has turned a lovely raspberry red. I hope the flavour is equally raspberry like. This half-standard has been very slow to set fruit, having been planted about ten years ago.

The dark patches would appear to be scab infections, as some have now developed characteristic cracks.

Ended up eating this one slightly earlier than planned, thanks to a squirrel knocking it off and gouging lots of holes (Sept 10). Crisp texture, nice fruity flavour with plenty of acidity and sweetness to balance. Slightly fragrance and only a hint of raspberry, but not bad considering it was less ripe than I would have liked. No trace of bitterness under the skin. Definitely one of the nicest red varieties. Bunyard doesn't appear to be quite so keen.

REINETTE ROUGE ETOILEE. Fl. and Pom., 1884, 169. F., Reinette Rouge Etoilee ; G., Roter Stern Reinette. [Cal ville Rouge Pre*coce (error), Early Red Calville, Reinette Etoile'e.] Dessert, October to December, small, 2j by 2, flattened round, regular. Colour, rich yellow, almost covered with carmine red with broad broken stripes. Flesh, firm, juicy, pale yellow with suffused red below skin, sub-acid, of slight strawberry flavour. Eye, open, in a very even, regular basin. Stem, very short, in a narrow russet cavity. Growth, compact ; fertile. Leaf, rather dark, long oval, held flat, tip down curved, very finely curved serrate. Origin, it has been grown in Eastern Belgium for some 100 years or more. It was introduced to England probably about 1830. It is the Early Red Calville of Hogg. Of fair quality and most attractive in appearance.

Crop: Mother, or American Mother

Quite a good crop of over 1kg from a maiden stepover. Last year the flavour was very good, sweet and aromatic; this year I picked too early, as the fruit started blowing off in the gales and ones I've tried so far have been disappointing.

Bunyard's description: MOTHER. FL and Pom., 1883, 121. G., Mutter Apfel. (So many apples have the name " Mother " that Hogg distinguished this one by prefixing the country of its origin : American Mother.) Dessert. October to November, medium, 2j by 2j, oval conical, slightly ribbed. Colour, golden-yellow with dull brownish-red flush and faint stripes. Flesh, soft and, juicy, very sweet, yellow or slightly green of distinct flavour, resembling Peardrops. Eye, very small, closed, in a small fairly deep basin. Stem, rather short, slender in a moderate cavity which is compressed on one side. Growth, moderate ;" fertility rather irregular. Leaf, rather large, pale, nearly flat, down-hanging, sharply serrate. Origin, rather uncertain, but recorded in America before 1848. A very choice dessert fruit, which often keeps good till mid January.

Crop: Worcester Pearmain

I hesitate to call this a crop - one single apple! The rest of the crop was raided by squirrels earlier on.

However, it was one very good fruit. Very sweet with pleasantly fruity level of acid. Slightly and a fragrant pear-drops flavour, with an aromatic quality reminiscent of cox, but without the richness. The flesh is quite crisp is comparison, and I think probably keeps reasonably well. This fruit ripened very well on the tree in almost full shade, which is why the squirrels missed it. It's a shame commercial Worcesters are picked underipe, I hadn't appreciated how glorious this variety can be at it's best until today. It seems Bunyard agrees with me:

WORCESTER PEARMAIN. Her. Pom., P. 2.  Dessert, September to October, medium, 2j by 2j,  round conical, regular. Colour, bright crimson on  golden-yellow ground. Flesh, crisp, greenish, very  sweet, with a pleasant strawberry flavour. Eye,  closed, in a shallow ribbed basin. Stem, short, in a  rather narrow russeted cavity. Growth, moderate ;  very regularly fertile. Leaf, rather pale, oval, upfolded,  undulating, coarsely serrate. Originated at Swan Pool,  near Worcester, by a Mr. Hale, Introduced by Messrs.  Smith, of Worcester, in 1874. An esteemed market  variety, seldom failing to crop. The flavour of this  fruit is greatly underrated by many, as it is usually  gathered and eaten far before it is ripe. Makes a neat,  round-headed standard.

King's Russet?

Another slight mystery. This tree has never produced fruit since it was planted, and I'd actually forgotten all about it. Of course the original label is long gone too. I'm fairly sure I ordered King's Russet, a sport of King of the Pippins, to complete my row of russet cordons. Smaller-sized fruit than the other ones. The growth habit isn't good for cordon use; there is a lot of bare wood, and spurs are very sparse.

Crop: Sunset

Not a heavy crop of Sunset this year, though the few fruits were of a good size consequently. I left them too long on the tree, and a couple had started to rot in situ, without any help from wasps. If it sets a good crop next year, I must remember to thin them, as it makes a lot of difference.

Crop: Rosemary Russet

Another good crop of Rosemary Russet. I find it difficult to tell the fruits from Pixie, as the two cordons intertwine and the fruits are almost identical in size; the Rosemary russets are less russeted than the Pixies. The flavour is quite different however, although the season is also quite similar to Pixie. Last year it was difficult to tell which was without tasting. I think they kept marginally less well than Pixie. According to the book of apples, the stalk is thicker and shorter than that of Pixie.

Crop: Pixie

Another excellent crop on the Pixie cordon, despite a bumper one last year as well. This variety kept us in fresh apples until March this year (although the skins had started to shrivel, the flesh was still crisp). One cordon is not enough, so I plan to add it as an extension to one of the less-productive cordons, probably the King Russet.

Crop: Winter Nelis

Another disappointingly sparse crop of Winter Nelis. However promising the crop looks when it sets, it rarely carries more than a single fruit per spur, and the majority of spurs end up bare of fruit. The size is disappointing, though I have seen this variety produce larger fruit elsewhere. Nevertheless, they will be very welcome, as they are usually the longest keeping of all my pears, and a nicely ripened pear is very welcome in December.

Bunyard's description:
WINTER NELIS. Her. Pom., II., 38. F. Nelis  d'Hiver. G. Coloma d'Hiver. (Bonne de Malines.)  Dessert, November to January, medium, 2\ by 2 J, round  conical, a little uneven. Skin, rough. Colour, greenish  yellow nearly covered with thin dark brown russet,  increasing round eye. Flesh, greenish white, trans-  parent, very juicy and sweet, delicately perfumed.  Eye, open in a shallow even basin. Stem, rather long,

Crop: Glou Morceau

This is a nice variety. Only a young tree planted about 3 years ago but precocious, regular crops with no pest damage or other problems which hang well on the tree until late in the season. The only downside is that it never really ripens to desert perfection but is very  nice cooked.

Bunyard's description: GLOU MORCEAU. Her. Pom., II., 55. F. Beurré d'Hardenpont. G. Hardenponts Winter Butterbirne. (Beurré d'Hardenpont, Beurré d'Arenberg.) Dessert, December to January, fairly large, oval pyriform, often snout-like at eye, uneven. Skin, smooth. Colour, pea green till it approaches ripeness, when it changes slowly to a pale greenish yellow. Flesh, very smooth, very melting, nearly white, flavour first rate. Eye, wide open in a wide basin, which is a little uneven. Stem, long, fairly stout, woody, generally inserted at an angle. Growth, moderate, rather spreading; fertility good. Leaf, flat and undulating, down curved, finely and regularly crenate, turns dark brown. Origin, raised by the Abbe Hardenpont in the eighteenth century. It is known as Beurré d'Hardenpont, or Beurre d'Aren- berg in France ; our Beurré d'Arenberg being the Orphelin d'Enghien of Belgium. It is regrettable that the memory of the pioneer of Pear raising, l'Abbé Hardenpont, is not commemorated in this fruit. One of the finest of winter pears, ripening successively and lasting in good condition for some time. On a South or West wall it crops regularly and ripens its fruits splendidly. In France it is said to benefit by a shade over the tree to protect it from spring frosts.

A mystery...

This one is a mystery to me. The parent cordon of both these fruit is Dr Jules Guyot. I remember budding Devoe onto one half of the Y when my husband broke the original maiden graft by mistake, and I had to take rapid action not to lose the variety. However, there is a section between Dr Jules and the Devoe extention production very nice but quite alien fruit. I have no memory of budding anything else on, and the fruit is unlike anything else I grow (superficially a little like Comice, but about half the size). I can't see any scars at the base of the spur that would suggest it had been budded, or grafted further back, whereas the scars are still very obvious where the Devoe spurs were added. Could it be a bud sport ? 

Crop: Santa Claus

The first year that this partial cordon of Santa Claus produced a crop it was very good. Large-sized, irregular fruits of good flavour that kept a very long time. Ever since, it's had difficulty setting any fruit, and that which has survived has been horribly affected by scab. 

Devoe: crop

I should have kept a closer eye on the Devoe cordon too, the largest fruit has been ready to pick for a few days, a couple had already fallen and wasps were beginning to attack the fruit as the skins are quite thin. I think I should have picked them earlier.

I decided to cook the damaged ones, rather than waste them. They weren't great. The texture was a bit rubbery, similar to under-ripe conference, and they don't have enough acidity in comparison with the best culinary varieties.

I tried a couple of the others; they were both floury and going brown in the middle. I think this is one of those varieties that need to be picked before they are ripe and part easily from the stem, like Concorde.

The skins of the reddest ones were quite tough and papery, and there was quite a thick 'string' at the core. 

Crop: Conference

The combination of a heavy crop and non-stop gales for the last few weeks has taken a real toll on the Conference/Concorde cordons, which now have an oblique shape in two dimensions. The stakes have been loosened, and I will probably have to replace/extend them in addition to the bamboo lattice. Either that or make the cordon lower which I'd prefer not to have to do, as the top branches of the current arrangement get rather more direct sun than the lower ones.

Crop: St Edmund's Pippin

My small crop of St Edmund's started to fall earlier than I'd expected last week, so with non-stop gales in the offing I decided to pick them. Ideally I would have left them a little longer, in the vain hope of a bit more sun to help ripen them. Crop about 2lbs, all sound and no pest damage.

Crop: Fondante d'Automne

I decided to pick the remaining crop of Fondante d'Automne today as half the crop had previously fallen in the wind. Usable crop weighed in at 2.5 kgs. The windfalls had actually ripened more nicely than the ones I picked, despite being dark green. I think I left the others too long, as the ones that had yellowed slightly on the tree were brown at the core, and slightly floury.

The pear lives up to it's name - very soft sweet flesh with moderate skin, little acidity or tannins. Quite rich, but not really 'buttery'. Normally I like my pears slightly under-ripe and firm, but this is one variety that is worth letting soften a little, as the sugar levels increase quite substantially.

This variety has a shape described as a 'bergamot' pear. I hadn't really stopped to think about the reasoning behind this until today, but I guess it might be because it has the nearly-round shape of the bergamot orange (sometimes described as being 'pear-like'.