Windfalls: A Winter Feast For Wildlife

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As autumn flows seamlessly into winter, our orchards are still full of activity. Windfalls provide a vital source of late food for many species of birds and mammals. Fieldfares, redwings, mistle and song thrushes, blackbirds, jays all have a liking for ripe apples, as do badgers, foxes, hedgehogs and hares.  Continue reading

Apple Juicing

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Orchard Origins’ first apple juicing course was a huge success. The first half of the morning session focussed on the harvesting and storage of apples including the difference between ready to pick and ripe to eat.  Some apples – mostly early season varieties – are best picked and juiced on the same day.  Late season apples, such as the Bramley Seedling, benefit from storage to allow their more complex flavour to develop.

After coffee, Laurence Green Orchard Origins project manager,  conducted an apple tasting session in the orchard behind Lower House Farm. A bit like a wine tasting, apple tasting is an art that develops with practice.  Recognising the different layers of taste in an apple – sweet, sharp, bitter, sour and savoury –  is the key to producing a distinctive blend. A single variety juice can be delicious, but blending different apple cultivars will create a more complex juice with layers of flavour.

In the afternoon, the course moved on to the nuts and bolts of processing and juicing the apples.  Using  the hand scratter and press, five apple cultivars – Tom Putt, Tillington Court, King of the Pippins, Worcester Pearmain and Merton Worcester –  were juiced separately.  These were then mixed in different quantities and combinations until the group was happy with the flavour.  It was then back to the orchard to pick the apples for the final blend.  To juice a larger quantity of apples and speed up the whole process, the electric scratter and bladder press were used.

Finally, the juice was bottled, pasteurised and labelled. Everyone went home clutching bottles of Orchard Origins’ first Lower House Farm early season apple juice, a blend they had created themselves.

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Orchard Origins are running more apple pressing courses in the autumn as well as courses on cider-making. If you are interested, you can find out more here Apple Juicing and Cider-Making Courses.

 

 

June Drop

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It can be rather alarming to discover that the tiny apples that you have been watching form and swell over the past few weeks are dropping from the tree for no apparent reason. Fear not, it is a natural process that has even been given a name; June Drop [although it often continues well into July].  It is reckoned that only 5 per cent of  the blossoms on a tree need to set and go on to produce an apple for it to constitute a full crop.  Continue reading

Family Winter Wassail

SATURDAY 18 JANUARY  1400 – 1630

Orchard Origins and Wildplay invite you to the orchard at Lower House Farm to celebrate last year’s bumper crop of apples and to DECORATE, DANCE AND MAKE A NOISE around the trees for next year’s crop.

We will also be joined by STORY TELLER  Carol Graham so WRAP UP WARM and come along to the first event of the year.

Hot drinks and appley goodies will be available.

The event is FREE, but it is a book-in only event.

Please call Herefordshire Nature Trust on 01432 356872 to secure your place.

Winter Or Summer Pruning?

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Winter is the traditional time of year to prune apple and pear trees. The reasons for this are partly historical. January and February were quieter months in the agricultural calendar when farm labourers were available to work in the orchards.

In fact, pruning can be done in summer and winter.

As a  general rule winter pruning promotes vegetative growth; summer pruning slows growth and encourages fruit production.

Continue reading