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.
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
Strange but true, it never seems to rain when we are working in the orchards. Our secret to defying the rain god? The presence of Laurence, the project manager.
Last Friday was no exception. Despite dire warnings of downpours over Herefordshire, the rain clouds made a detour and skirted round the soft fruit orchards at the Houghton project where we were picking Victoria plums. Continue reading
Name a plum, any plum. The chances are you will say Victoria. It’s by far and away the best known variety of English plum. But there are lots of other delicious English plums, both culinary and dessert, which never make it on to our supermarket shelves and deserve to be equally popular.
Orchard Origins visited an orchard near Pershore in Worcestershire to pick some less well-known local varieties and to find out more about the history of the plum orchards that this area was once so famous for.