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

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Damson Surprise

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For the hedgerow forager finding a damson tree dripping with ripe fruit is like winning the lottery.  A close cousin of the more domesticated plum, the inky blue fruits of the damson often grow so profusely that the tree’s branches hang low with the weight. Much smaller in size than the average plum, damsons are fiddly to stone but they reward with a deep intense flavour when cooked: the reason they are so loved by jam makers. There are a few remaining commercial orchards in the UK, but today damson trees are mainly found in people’s back gardens or wild in hedgerows and woodlands.

So imagine our delight when we were contacted out of the blue and offered the opportunity to pick damsons from an orchard on the border of Herefordshire and Shropshire. Continue reading

Apple identification

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How raised are your lenticels? Is there puckering on the basin wall or radiating ridges? All critical questions, we discovered, when it comes to the dark art of apple identification.

With over 7500 known apple cultivars identifying individual varieties is quite a challenge. Last week we took a break from orchard maintenance to learn some of the basics.
Continue reading