Friday, 23 September 2011


I'm probably not the only person with a number of mouldy windfalls this time of year, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on what to do with them.

First, leaving them to rot on the ground isn't a terribly good idea. Although it's nice to leave the odd windfall for the birds, it's horrible having a hundredweight of rotting fruit lying around. Fruit can rot anaerobically and produce botulinum toxin which can be fatal for any poultry or birds that ingest it; it can be very slippery to walk over and will attract wasps. If the fruit is affected by pest or diseases, then leaving the spores or larvae lying around just means you will get more of the problem next year.

Ideally any fruit that is diseased should either be burned (not always possible and a potential nuisance to neighbours) or otherwise responsibly disposed of. I put mine in the food waste bins provided by the council. It's virtually the only time we ever use this service, as most other food waste goes to chickens or dogs. Council composting facilities are much better than those that can be achieved at home; they either use large, sealed containers which can be rotated to get even composting at high temperatures, or anaerobically digested to produce electricity.

I really don't like putting large amounts of fruit on my compost heap. Many is the time I've come across a layer of vinegary slime in the middle of otherwise peat-like compost, from a mixture of fruit that just hasn't rotted properly even when chopped up and mixed with straw / manure. If you are going to compost a quantity of windfall fruit, I'd suggest first putting it through a garden shredder, then mixing thin layers in between damp straw to stop it becoming slimey.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Crop: Sucrée de Montluçon

SucréeJust under 4 Kg from my super-productive little stepover this year. I left them on the tree as long as I could this year, and this is the first time they have ripened sufficiently (I usually end up using them under-ripe as cooking pears). Fully ripened they are slightly perfumed, soft, coarse and slightly granular but very sweet, nearer catalogue descriptions. Skins were quite tough and papery though. Ideally this variety needs a long season in addition to a warm location, and picking should be left as late as possible.

Crop: Glou Morceau

glouA tidy 3 kg of these this year, from quite a young cordon, in about 4 year now I think. In previous years I've mostly cooked them as they stay quite hard for so long, but will let these ripen to evaluate them properly this year. A small late mid-season pear with fine texture.

Frass on Quince

I noticed lots of insect frass on the calyces of a couple of quince this year. Quince are famous for having few pests or diseases, so I was a bit annoyed to find this as well as quite a lot of scab. However, on close inspection the damage is mainly on the exterior, extending only a little way into the fruit at the calyx end.

I'm not sure what did the damage, I couldn't find anything among the frass or inside, but I think whatever it was, it's an opportunist bug of some kind rather than a serious specific pest of quince. I'll need to keep an eye out for it, as even this small amount of external damage will rapidly turn to brown rot in store.

New Variety

This is my new variety found in the field beyond the house growing near the railway track several years ago. The windfalls were pretty far gone, all very over-ripe but the appearance and taste seemed good, so I popped back a couple of months later and took a scion. Only a months later, the tree was destroyed as part of the A34 bridge replacement. It's taken several years for the grafted scion to produce fruit.

So far so good. The crop is heavy, a good size without too much thinning. The fruit extremely healthy and has attractive even pink flush all over, which should turn bright crimson later. It will be quite a late one, ready late Oct-Nov but not a long keeper if my memory serves me right. It will fill the gap between the mid-season varieties and the those that ripen in the New year. Fingers crossed it tastes as good as I remember!

I regularly look for self-sown apples along side roads and tracks. Most are healthy and vigorous and edible to some degree but usually have some flaw that lets them down (tough skin, lack of sweetness, lack of size etc), this is the first I've thought worth grafting to evaluate further.

Crop: Bishop's Thumb

pearHad been picking an eating these without thinking, so I thought I'd weigh the last few and estimate the crop. We had at least a dozen on the half-grown arch in the front, so I think the crop was at least a Kg. I left some too long on the tree, which meant the odd one had gone brown from the core, but those that were just right had a magnificent 'fondante' quality, very sweet and soft. The flavour would have to be described as 'bittersweet', there is a hint of bitterness but it doesn't detract from the overall flavour. The texture is soft and rather coarse, the antithesis of a 'butter' pear but I find they make a nice contrast in a mixed pear platter.

Quince Jelly

QuinceNearly all the windfall Quinces bubbling away in a large pan. Recipe to follow.

Crop - Vranja

A very heavy crop of Vranja. However, the quality was rather below par this year. As the set was very heavy, the average size was smaller than usual, but the northern side of the tree was very badly affected by brown spotting which I think must be pear scab (as the pears were also affected to a greater extent than usual). The black spots are mostly surface deep, but on a couple of fruits they do extend into the flesh with cracking of the exterior as in pear scab. I thing the peculiar season probably encouraged this (very high temperatures early on made for some very soft growth which couldn't withstand more humid conditions later on). However, I think I need to open up the centre of the tree to increase ventilation, as it has become horrible congested in the last couple of years.

Quince - Sobu

This is my second half-standard quince tree, Turkish variety Sobu. The reason I added another quince variety despite having a large, productive tree of Vranja is that I hoped it would be of a higher quality, for cooking and exhibition. Certainly for the latter, the fruits are large, smooth skinned and a regular shape. The only problem is that they don't ripen on the tree, but stay green until they drop. I think in future I will need to pick in early September and bring inside to ripen/yellow in time for Autumn shows. The other slightly annoying thing is the amount of 'bloom', impossible to pick without damaging. However, it does 'polish' off very easily.

One of the probles with some quinces is that they remain very woody next to the core, which can be quite a large proportion of the fruit, so the best quality ones have a small core relative to flesh which makes preparing them before cooking much easier.

I cut one open, and it was quite easy. The core is small in relation to the flesh area. However, this one had bruised internally without showing any sign externally.

The tree has only been in about 3-4 year, so cropping is very light, half a dozen fruits of varying sizes.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Eve's Pudding

As we've ended up with an old cooking apple on our new patch of land, I'm having to find new ways of using the crop up other than the default 'crumble'.

Eve's pudding isn't hugely different, the crumble portion of the dish is replaced by sponge.

This is my own adaption of the plain recipe.

5 or 6 medium apples (cookers or eaters to taste)
Muscovado sugar to sweeten
Quince Jelly

100g self-raising flour
100g golden caster sugar
100g butter
2-3 tablespoons cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten

Fan oven pre-heated to 180°C

1. Peel, core and quarter the apples, cook in microwave until softened. Drain excess fluid from the fruit. Place in large glass pudding basin and put to one side. The apples should fill about half of the dish.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar into a paste. Add the beaten eggs gradually, whisking gently into butter/sugar mixture. Add a little of the flour to avoid 'curdling' at first. Add the cinnamon to the flour, and sieve into the rest of the mixture, mixing it in gradually until you have a stiff paste.

3. Depending on how sweet or sour the apples are, add between 1-3 tablespoons of muscovado sugar to taste, and then another couple of tablespoons of Quince jelly, spreading over the apples. Spread the sponge mixture over the top and shape it so it covers the apple evenly.

4. Place in the oven, cook at 180°C for 15 minutes then turn the heat down to 150°C (to help stop the top burning) and cook for a further15 minutes. Remove from oven and test with knife, as you would a sponge to see if the mixture sticks to the metal.

This is the difficult bit as, unlike a sponge cake, there is a variable amount of moisture in the apples that makes the sponge layer rather gooey. The aim is to get the top crisp, the middle spongey and the bottom still slightly gooey (a glass basin will let you see what's going on). If the mixture still seems very wet just underneath the surface put back for another 15 minutes. The top can be covered with foil to stop the top burning.

This might seem like a fiddle, but it is worth the effort as the contrast between the crisp top and soft centre is wonderful. The jam/sugar mixture should have formed a thick caramel around the apple.

We used our Grenadier apples, which by this stage are actually a good sharp desert which keep their shape when cooked, ideal for this recipe.

Once the knack of getting the sponge right is mastered, I think this is a really good basic recipe that can be varied to suit other fruits.

Village Show - fruit categories

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Crop: Coe's Golden Drop

My Coe's Golden Crop had a very good set this year, and looked to have a promising crop for once. But one by one, nearly every fruit has turned brown and either dropped or rotted on the tree. As the crop has been so small in previous years, I haven't really paid it the attention I should have, I probably assumed the rot was due to wasps nibbling the thin skin causing brown rot to set in. But this year I have religiously opened every spoiled fruit, and found every single one infested with plum moth. I'm slightly at a loss to know why the infestation is so severe; neither the wild plum nor the Denniston's is affected, and there aren't many plum trees in neighbouring gardens. I was left with about 7 unaffected plums from a 8 foot standard which had previously been over-loaded.

Not sure what to do, I'm not sure it's worth the bother of pheromone traps/spraying for one sparsely producing tree. The fruit is good, but not as outstandling a yellow plum as the catalogues suggests, and the few unaffected fruits ripen very unevenly, the area near the stalk shrivels whilst the other end is sometimes hard.

My husband's favourite plum is the Warwickshire Drooper that grow rather ferally in his parent's garden, as unusually this variety does very well on it's own roots. The flavour isn't as rich as Coe's, but large, sweet and juicy, skins are equal in terms of thickness/bitterness, but it very reliable, seemingly pretty immune to silverleaf and only mildly affected by moth. The drooping habit is attractive, and somewhat self-limiting re. height which is nice.

I know the poor soil here means that plums are very slow to come into production, maybe it's simply too poor for a fussy variety like Coe's. I'll give it one more chance.

Keepers Nursery Open Day

I wish I was nearer, I'd love to go to an open day at Mr Habibi's orchard, sadly Kent just too far for us. Although I now graft all my own fruit these days, I have bought from Keeper's Nursery in the past, maidens trees have been a nice size and always come true, unlike those bought from another well-known fruit supplier (Deacon's). On the rare occasions I've asked for follow up advice it has been very good.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Pear or Apple?

Russet pretending to be a pear.

Today's pickings

Total 4 boxes. Smaller quanitities (1-2kg) of Ellison's Orange, Sunset and Egremont. Very disappointing yields from apple cordons. I need to do something to reduce vigour, I might start with root pruning.

Crop: Red Comice

This is the first year when Comice has produced a full crop, very good quality with large fruits, total over 5kg, the largest few weighing in at about .5kg or 1lb each! These are my great hope for the village show next Sunday. I usually like to pick the night before, but the danger of damage from the mini-hurricane that is predicted tomorrow is too great. I hope they won't look too tired after a week in storage.

Crop: Worcester

Worcesters, about 3kg from young half-stantard M26.

Crop: Comice

A good quality crop of Comice, some nicely blushed from the (non-existant) sun. Moderate crop of 4kg. Box filled out with Glou Morceaux, probably about 2 kg worth (can't be bothered to measure small quantities on young trees).

Crop - Concorde

Decided to pick as much mid-season fruit as possible today, as there ex-tropical storm Katja is on the way for tomorrow, and I don't want the crop wasted as windfalls. Crop was a good 5.5 kg.

Also picked kg of Conference.

Friday, 9 September 2011


We had the first Autumn storm a few days ago, and with it a lot of windfalls, signalling that most of the remaining pears and some of the apples are ready for picking. I picked a box of Conference, most of the Glou Morceaux, Bishops Thumb, Beurré Hardy, also some Comice and Concorde. Elison's Orange and Egremont had started dropping, so picked all that parted easily, plus the Sunset's that had fallen. I had to pick all the Worcesters early too, as they started to drop.

Will have to give quite a bit away. I haven't tried to sell any more as the quality of both apples and pears simply isn't that good. The Worcesters taste metallic and rubbery, neither they nor the russets have that slightly honeyed quality you get with maximum sun ripening. I wondered about trying to leave them longer but there has been no sun in the interim since picking. So much for this being a good year for fruit. Certainly the extremely warm early conditions ensured a good set, but the quality is awful. Also the ripening period has been brought forward, meaning that mid-season cultivars are ripening along side earlier ones, with little succession.


This is the first year that our King James Mulberry has had a useable crop. Although it started to crop from about it's second year, the crop has been light. This year there has been a steady number of rip fruits from late July. Through early August there were enough fully ripe, black fruit to snack on whilst gardening; in the third week of August there were enough to fill a small desert bowl to have with cream. However, even when refridgerated they keep very poorly. I picked a bowl one day; they were forgotten that evening, but I decided to eat them the next afternoon. They tasted a bit mildew - when I looked the ones at the bottom of the bowl were completely mouldy, with very obvious white mycelium fibres already covering the fruit.

By the last weekend in August, black fruits picked straight from the tree were tasting a bit mouldy. Not 'winey' as some fruits go when overripe but mildewed, very strong mould. To be fair, the weather really hasn't helped, it's been very damp over the last few weeks and I've noticed blackberries shrivelling on the bushes too, the Devil has been spitting early this year.

Today, even some of the mid-red coloured fruit look a bit shrivelled so I decided to pick the remainder of the reachable crop and jam them, just over 1kg, enough for a small quantity of jam.

There aren't really any guidelines anywhere for how to use mulberries, but I think we will be better prepared next year. I have to say that using them is made more difficult by my husband refusing to eat them unless they are completely black, when they lose a lot of their acidity (my palate can take them just a tad 'redder'). They drop so easily at this stage, it's easy to lose most of them. But there is about a week in early- to mid- August when they can be eaten like other soft fruit. From that point on I think it's better to pick in stages, freeze, and then jam (or wine) at leisure. Mulberry jam rivals strawberry in the most delicious jam stakes (the fruits that don't break down are wonderfully chewy, like finding bits of fruit toffee in your jam), but is very hard to come by as so few people have mulberry trees, and they are tedious to pick. I wouldn't be without a mulberry now though, the taste of a really ripe fruit is on a hot summer day is indescribable, no other fruit matches it for intensity.

Post script
Husband made the jam (usual method of 1kg dry fruit to 1kg sugar), but for some reason decided to add pectin, as he wasn't sure how much mulberries have naturally. The answer is plenty; adding pectin made it far to thick. Personally I like my jam slightly runny or jelly-like in consistence, not completely solid (technically this would be fruit 'butter' anyway). Also I should have been a bit more careful in picking through them, as I let through the odd woody stalk that didn't break down on cooking. Live and learn, the flavour is good regardless.