Yes! It’s that time of year. Apples are falling from trees and we’re loving them. But I find something very sad about piles of crushed and fermenting apples scattered around pavements and fields, left in piles to rot around trees. What a waste. I’ve been travelling quite a bit around the UK recently and seen many great apple trees, laden with fruits, fit and ready for a good scrumping!
There are over 2500 varities of apples growing in the UK, so I’m not talking about the handful of varieties we can pick up in the supermarkets, I’m talking about the real deal, heritage, local apples. The ones which flourish in certain areas because of the specific climate, regional apples, that’s what gets me excited. Most of these are growing wild and many may be falling right now, grab a bucket and get out there!
When I travel, I love nibbling global dishes, exotic fruits and the like. But there is one thing I miss, sensational UK apples!! Best in the world. No question. (Although, they’re pretty good in France too.)
Wild Fruits, Great Names
Most of the apples you’ll pick up in the supermarkets are pale imitations of a proper apple. Something local, and in my opinion, the more bumps, the uglier the apple is, the better it tastes! We have such a rich history of apple cultivation, which is still there, if we shop local and take advantage of the natural abundance at this time of year. Many of the best apples I find come from neighbours gardens (please don’t tell them;)
Jane’s Mum sent across a fascinating little article that prompted this post, I find the names of heritage apples so inspiring. They just sound fun! Here’s a selection, just a wee taster (by region). Do you know some of these?:
Scotland – Coul Blush, Bloody Ploughman, Scotch Dumpling, Tower of Glanis, Dog’s Snout
North England – Golden Spice, Cockpit, Carlise Codlin, Rilston Pippin, Lord Hindlip
South England – Newton Wonder, D’Arcy Spice, Crawley Beauty, Fearn’s Pippin, Pitmaston Pineapple, Oaken Pin, Tom Pitt, Cornish Gilliflower
Wales – Bardsey Island, Pig’s Snout, Cissy, Ten Commandments, Saint Cecilia, Croen Mochya
Ireland also has some great varities and names going on:
Ireland – Greasy Pippin, Lady’s Finger of Offaly, Kilkenny Pearmain, Irish Peach, Ross Nonpareil, Scarlet Crofton, Ecklinville Seedling
Maybe you have some of these growing in your garden? Or a local park? I love these names, many are poetic, rustic, some amusing, but they all speak to me of a different time of food production. When it wasn’t just about business and high yields. I think it’s paramount to protect the heritage and diversity of locally grown food, in the UK and around the world. Most of the varities are just about hanging in there (no pun intended), mainly growing wild or in gardens, but we can always ask for them in our local shops and supermarkets. If we can get together, in enough numbers, and demand real, local, British apples, maybe we can see apples like the ‘Dog’s Snout’ back on the shop shelves where they belong. These names really brighten up my day.
The Legend of the Bardsey Apple
There is a great story here in North Wales about a local fellow, Ian Sturrock, who discovered a single apple tree on a remote island off the Llyn Peninsula. Bardsey Island. When it was tested, it was the last of it’s kind in the world. This variety has now been saved and it’s grown around the world, from Japan to the USA. We have one in our garden. Lovely golden, sweet apples. There is also a variety of Snowdon Pear which is very rare, tastes like sweet fennel and has a light pink colour inside. You just don’t get such variety and range of flavours in the most shops. We are missing out big time! This is one of our greatest British foodies assets. Our amazing fruits.
The Art of Scrumping
Scrumping! It’s a doorway to the best of British apples and fruits. Go find some nice looking trees, grab a bucket and go and fill your boots/ bucket. I know people who only scrump at night, but we’re day light scrumpers. Unabashed. It’s loads of fun and leads to a bounty of fresh and delicious local apples. A few basic guidelines for new scrumpers:
Just make sure that you’re picking edible apples.
Don’t climb and fall out of trees.
Don’t blatantly nick your neighbours apples, this can lead to bad vibes and unneighbourly jams.
If councils or land owners have put up signs saying ‘DO NOT PICK THESE APPLES’, best to leave them dangling.
Picking fruit gets me in touch with nature again, you plug straight back into the natural world, it’s relaxing and a great excuse to get out in the fresh air. One friend told me that the art of scrumping is to not get caught. I think there has to be a slightly more moral approach than that. .
You don’t need to live halfway up a mountain like us to scrump well, urban scrumping is on the rise. Inner city fruit foraging. It may take a little research at first, trying to understand what apples are best for eating, which are best for cooking etc. But once you’ve identified a local tree, that’s it. Every year you can pick a crop of delicious local apples.
The benefits of scrumping are free food! Plus, no packaging or plastic and the only food miles are the steps you take. I just don’t understand why we don’t plant more fruit trees. Local councils, lets get more orchards going. We can organise groups of fruit pickers and jam makers, free neighborhood jams and chutneys all year! Some local councils have done this in the past, after complaints from residents about being hit by falling fruit and apples impeding their driving. They provided fruit pickers and yes, gave the chutney away for free! This seems like a wonderful idea. We know people who pick your apples for you if you’re too busy/ can’t be bothered and make them into a cider and sell it. Their business is based on free or donated apples.
What to do with your new found apple bounty? Chutneys, apple sauce, soups, add to stews and casseroles, make into jam….the list is almost endless. Here are a few of our recipes to get your going :
One of the best ways of using up LOTS of apples is to make your own cider. You do need loads. You will also need a cider press for this, but again, there will no doubt be someone in your local community who has one you can borrow or use. Especially if you offer them a small cut of your cider.
Of course, we’re not just looking for apples when we’re in scrumping mode; sloe berries, rosehips, blackberries, damsons, mushrooms, bilberries (see our Bilberry and Spelt Scone recipe), pears, there is a bounty of fresh fruit growing on trees and bushes all around the UK. We just need to get out there and have a look.
If you are really not fancying scrumping, you can still access local fruits. Check out freecycle, there may well be someone in your area looking to offload some apples or other fruits.
If you do scrump, remember that it is illegal to profit from the fruit you harvest from common or council land. On private land, you’ll need a ‘scrump pass’. If you are not a comfortable single scrumper, it can make for a great family activity or form a small local group. Scrumpers unite! Some people feel scrumping is a bit cheeky, but that’s the fun bit!
If you’re a serial scrumper of have some scrumping tales or advice, please let us know in the comments below.
National apple day in the UK is 21st October ’18. Let’s celebrate local apples, fruits and produce! Autumn is the perfect time of year to cook and shop local.
Look out from my next post if you’re an apple lover, we’ve got an Apple Crumble Cookies (Gluten-free) recipe coming your way very soon.