As we cel­e­brate this year’s bounty from the ap­ple or­chard, Genevieve Taylor pre­pares three fresh and tasty de­lights

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Au­tumn in an ap­ple or­chard brings sim­ple plea­sures. Leaves fade with the tints of the sea­son, branches grow heavy with ripe fruit and the air fills with an earthy scent – a com­bi­na­tion of trees yield­ing their bounty and the gen­tle de­cay of plants pre­par­ing for win­ter.

The ar­rival of the ap­ple crop as sum­mer gives way to au­tumn stirs a nos­tal­gia for the tra­di­tions of har­vest: cider-mak­ing, pre­serv­ing, bak­ing ap­ple pies and crum­bles, and get­ting ready for win­ter by hoard­ing and stor­ing. Tra­di­tions that were es­tab­lished and evolved by gen­er­a­tions of Bri­tain’s farm­ers, gar­den­ers and cooks.


Thanks to the ded­i­ca­tion of Vic­to­rian gar­den­ers, Bri­tain once cul­ti­vated more va­ri­eties of ap­ple than any­where else in the world: more than 2,000 types of ap­ples with all sorts of tastes, tex­tures, shapes and sizes. For eat­ing, there were Pit­mas­ton Pineap­ples, Rib­ston Pippins or the Lax­ton’s Su­perb, a red-flushed, sweet, crisp dessert ap­ple. For cook­ing and juic­ing, the Al­fris­ton was a large, sharp ap­ple that made won­der­ful juices and smooth purées, or the How­gate Won­der, a su­per-sized cooker that was great for pies and tarts. Ev­ery va­ri­ety was bred to en­hance dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties for a range of uses.

To­day we im­port over 70% of the ap­ples we con­sume and a quick glance around the su­per­mar­ket shelves re­veals much about our lim­ited choice, with the Bram­ley be­ing the only cooker on of­fer, along with a hand­ful of sim­i­lar- tast­ing eat­ing ap­ples. Things are start­ing to change, though. There has been a surge in in­ter­est among con­sumers in both Bri­tish pro­duce and its sea­son­al­ity. Also, com­mu­nity or­chards are spring­ing up across the coun­try where groups of peo­ple plant and nur­ture fruit trees on oth­er­wise un­used land.

The Uni­ver­sity of Bris­tol Her­itage Or­chard at Gold­ney Hall is not a new or­chard, but it is a ver­dant oa­sis in the heart of the city that is now us­ing its crop to help the neigh­bour­hood. Orig­i­nally planted by the mer­chant Thomas Gold­ney III in 1744, it still grows five his­tor­i­cal va­ri­eties (see ‘Tra­di­tional Ap­ple Va­ri­eties’, p56). Si­mone Jacobs, hor­ti­cul­tural ad­vi­sor at the uni­ver­sity, co­or­di­nates the Ap­ple Project to re­duce waste and find char­i­ties and com­mu­nity hubs for the Her­itage Or­chard’s an­nual har­vest.

As well as its ob­vi­ous his­tor­i­cal and eco­log­i­cal im­por­tance, the or­chard is also forg­ing strong links be­tween the stu­dents and the com­mu­nity. Last year, stu­dents dis­trib­uted ap­ples grown in the or­chard to sev­eral good causes, in­clud­ing the Wild Goose Café, which pro­vides meals for the home­less in east Bris­tol, and the Matthew Tree Project, a char­ity that pro­vides food to those in need.

To cel­e­brate Bri­tish ap­ple sea­son, and the va­ri­eties we once en­joyed in the har­vest, I’ve put to­gether three recipes us­ing ap­ples grown in the Her­itage Or­chard: a pre­serve for stor­ing over win­ter, a salad for the sea­son’s last warm days and a hearty pud­ding for when sum­mer has drifted away again for an­other year.

As sum­mer gives way to au­tumn, Genevieve Taylor har­vests ap­ples at the Uni­ver­sity of Bris­tol Her­itage Or­chard at Gold­ney Hall

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