Pruning a variety, but which one? (Juliet’s Orchard Blog January 2024 #2)

Shepperdine Silt

Come the first agreeable afternoon this month I intend to start pruning the apple trees. Pruning is not difficult and whatever you do you are not likely to kill the tree, but good pruning results in higher production and better quality fruit. The mantra is start with dead, damaged, diseased, and crossing but I would prefix that with “why am I going to the effort of pruning it at all”. In my experimental orchard of about 100 varieties I’ve had them long enough to know that there are some I can hardly be bothered with. Result – they don’t get touched until they are overcrowding a variety I like and then they get a severe chop for firewood – Shepperdine Silt was the first to get this honour, a highly vigorous tree with large quantities of disgusting little fruit going rotten before they dropped. Cut at about knee height three years ago it has resprouted vigorously. Remember, I said I cut it off at knee height. Had I done it at ankle height it would still probably have regrown, but it would be from the rootstock below the graft union so it would no-longer be a Shepperdine Silt.

I don’t want to lose any variety in my collection. It is entirely possible that I haven’t discovered the best use for this variety yet. It took me years to discover that Green Two Year Old becomes edible after Christmas and currently is a nice crisp tart green eater, and will go on well for several months eventually becoming yellow. It is fine for cooking too.

All the varieties I planted were thought to be Gloucestershire varieties at the time. Thanks to DNA analysis, where GOT is sending off “our varieties” for testing, we now know that Green Two Year Old matches the variety held in the National Fruit Collection as French Crab, and Shepperdine Silt is Lord Lambourne. All credit to the pioneers of varietal conservation in Gloucestershire, Charles Martell, Richard Fawcett and Alan Watson; without their work more than 20 years ago we wouldn’t have the luxury of testing the varieties which they secured against possible extinction to find out how unique each one really is. Though my Green Two Year Old matches the description of French Crab fine, my Shepperdine Silt can’t be the same high-quality dessert fruit as Lord Lambourne. Summat wrong somewhere

Fermenting nicely, Juliet’s Orchard Blog January 2024 #1

The juice pressed in the autumn and early part of the winter has now all passed its frothing stage and is just bubbling away quietly.

One of life’s little pleasures is to watch the fermentation, the tiny bubbles rising to the neck of the demijohn, or the bubbler airlock filling with gas and pushing a ball of gas up the escape route.

It is good to keep an eye on the process – the level of liquid on the two sides of the bubbler should be different, with the level lower on the jar side than the escape side.

This means that fermentation is occuring as it should and the likely outcome will be cider and not vinegar.

Juliet’s Orchard Blog December 2023

13 December 2023

I finished pressing the cider apples and clearing up today. The Ansell and Hagloe Crab, shaken from the tree onto tarpaulins about a month ago, were still in prime condition.

If you are organised enough to collect the fruit before it falls to the ground, it is much easier doing it this way than collecting dropped fruit that needs vigorous cleaning to get the mud off before it can be scratted. However, it is good to wait till at least some ripe fruit has fallen or it won’t be ready.

All my cider and juice is for personal or family consumption. I’ve got a ramshackle cider-making kit, involving an old garden shredder and various fermenting barrels and demi-johns bought from charity shops over the years.

My little fruit press was bought second-hand at auction and is a very good size for making single-variety juices when you only have one tree of any particular sort. I baulk at the cost of commercial strainer bags and have tried net curtains but they rot and tear quickly and the pulp will squirt out of any hole when under pressure. The best solution I’ve found is old linen tea towels. They allow a free flow of liquid and can be washed and sterilised regularly.

Juliet Bailey

Juliet’s Orchard Blog November 2023

A new series of posts from GOT trustee Juliet Bailey.

30 November 2023

It’s a frosty day.

I had intended scratting and pressing cider with the varieties Hagloe Crab and Ansell, both picked about 10 days ago, but the hosepipe feeding the waterbath for washing them had been left out all night, and not a dribble was getting through.

So I went down to the orchard to see what was still on the trees.

Plenty of Lemon Roy, though more than half of them were on the floor, but all now safely gathered in. Charles Martell’s Native Apples of Gloucestershire has them down as a culinary variety, but I find them pleasant eating, crisp with a good balance of sweet and acidity, even if not very aromatic.

I got my first decent crop from a young Kernel Underleaf tree. This has to be a cider variety, sweet enough, but with a cardboard texture to the flesh and a thick skin. Still, it ripens late, so could be a good one to have to spread the load of processing through the season. If you were wondering what a “tip-bearer” looks like, this is it. The photo shows fruit dangling at the tip of a long twig which bends under the weight.

Finally, I picked the remaining Elmore Pippins. These ripen in store and will be a good little eater in January.

I hope to get round to picking the Green 2-year Olds this week, then the birds are welcome to the rest.

Juliet Bailey