25 Nov 2016

Let's hear it for ugly fruit!

Windfall apples


Given that the meagre fruit from my veg patch apple trees has long gone, I could hardly believe my eyes when I walked into my niece's garden the weekend before last; at the far far end of the garden, the branches of the two eating apple trees were still weighed down with fruit. Not only that but the grass all around was littered with windfalls so the fruit was definitely ready for picking.






I was curious; my niece shares my interests in harvesting and preserving. Surely this abundant fruit should have been transformed into purée, jam or chutney before now?  I was told that the fruit was "no good".  On closer inspection about 80% of the fruit was marked with brown blotches, like a russetting across the skin.  I found an unmarked apple and ate it as I wandered around.  The apple was crisp, juicy and sweet and I resolved to try and rescue the best of the rest.

I gathered up a bagful of the apples and took them home to cook. They were delicious and I survived the week with no ill after effects. (I probably should have checked before eating but, hey, I'm a spontaneous kind of gal.)

Thanks to the RHS website, the blotches were identified as apple scab. This is an airborne fungus that doesn't affect the flesh of the fruit so, once the fruit is washed and peeled, it's perfectly okay to eat. The fungus spores overwinter on fallen leaves and then the cycle starts again with new leaves and fruit being affected from mid-spring.  Part of the solution is to rake up any affected leaves as soon as they fall and, in the spring, prune out any blistered young shoots.  Needless to say, it's best to burn affected material and not to put the affected fruit, leaves, shoots and peelings in the compost bin!

apples
Closer inspection shows the marks of apple scab


The thought of all those other apples left behind played on my mind during the week.  I hate wasted food and even more so if I then have to go and buy more of the same! I'd arranged to take my niece's children to the cinema this past Sunday so went armed with a large tote bag for a second harvest to bring home. After a very windy Saturday, there were plenty of good windfall apples and I also picked some blotched fruit from the branches. If I had more freezer space, I could easily have doubled or trebled the amount of apples brought home but, even so, gathered nearly 10 kilos of fruit.



I'm gradually working my way through the bowl, peeling, chopping, cooking and juicing or freezing. With that amount of apples I've found it's best to get in the swing of it - peel, chop, core, repeat.  I set out a large bowl of water with lemon juice next to the chopping board; the lemon water is to stop the fruit oxidising and going brown. For speed, I use a potato peeler to take the skin off, a knife to halve the apples and a melon baller to remove the core. The peelings are dropped straight into another box next to the chopping board. The prepared fruit is dropped into the bowl of lemon water and, once that's full, lifted into a large pot for cooking.  I like using up eating apples in this way as they hold their shape and don't need any added sugar. What I do add though is a full vanilla pod and three or four whole star anise; this really lifts the flavour of the fruit. The cooked fruit is frozen to use at a later date in pancakes and pies or eaten with yogurt; I might also make some fruit leathers.

I wasn't surprised to learn that growers can't sell scabbed fruit, even though the flesh is okay. The fruit spoils more quickly and is no good for the high visual standards demanded by consumers. This issue is addressed by spraying trees with a variety of chemicals throughout the year.  That's an unpleasant thought isn't it? Personally, I'd rather eat fruit prepared from scabbed apples than fruit soaked in chemicals to make it visually appealing. For the home grower, it's best to buy trees that have been bred to resist scab and a lot of commercial growers are doing the same. (Google scab resistant apples.)

In finding out about all this, I read of an American farmer who let his squad of 120 pigs roam through his orchards to eat up all the fallen apples in the hope of eradicating any disease spores.  The pigs' health was unaffected and the experiment successful in time.  Happy pigs, happy farmer. Sometimes the old ways really are best.


24 comments:

  1. We often get scab on apples but like you it doesn' t put us off harvesring them. Some ugliness is only skin deep.

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    1. I think the fungus must be hard to control if there are nearby apple trees, even if all the affected fruit and leaves are cleared away.

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  2. An interesting, and informative, post. Flighty xx

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    1. Thanks, Flighty. It was good to find out that the apples were all good to use. Cx

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  3. Lucky pigs!
    Like you, I hate to see fruit go to waste. Will drying be OK for scabbed apples?

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    1. The life of a pig roaming free in an orchard must be a happy one! I'd forgotten about drying but, yes, one the peel is removed, the fruit can be used however you like. I'm taking some of the apples back in a crumble next weekend!

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  4. I'm a huge fan of eating everything home grown, ugly and damaged or not. I'm always cutting out the brown bits. I dip apples in lemon water as well, and then freeze them raw and use them in crumbles and things. I always snap up any free windfalls on offer. Although this year there haven't been as many. Love the idea of pigs free ranging through the orchard. CJ xx

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    1. Oh yes, me too, CJ. Good tip to freeze some fruit raw when space is available. You've reminded me that I also intended to write about the London scheme that gathers up unwanted apples and juices them; it's amazing how many garden trees have fruit going to waste, probably because the owners can no longer reach the fruit! Cxx

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  5. I agree with all you say, my cookers have the same problem. We pick ours, then I prepare, cook and freeze them and enjoy them through the winter. We give loads away and I tell everyone that they are perfectly ok inside, to just ignore the blotched skins!

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    1. Strangely, the cooker tree adjacent to the scabbed trees seemed to be unaffected but there was hardly any fruit on the tree. It's very heartening to read that your fruit doesn't go to waste; having lovely home grown fruit is such a treat! (If you read this my apologies for your 'missing' comment, I've been away since posting this and comments get manually published to get rid of spammers.)

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  6. Yes I too hate waste and I love a session like the one you describe. With Radio 4 or Leonard Cohen on the player I can work for hours. My neighbour bottled a surplus of pears last week so maybe if you've run out of freezer space a bottling session with apples might be good.

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    1. Ah, thanks Sue! It had slipped my mind that I could bottle some and, yes, I am beginning to run out of freezer space! Good reminder, thanks. Radio 4 is my station of choice but I recently discovered Age UK's The Wireless. It's not available everywhere through digital radio but you can listen over the internet. I love the discussions and range of music which varies from theatre musicals to the sort of pop that I listened to a few decades ago - strangely soothing!

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  7. I have a gigantic apple tree, I simply can't give them all away so I leave them for the birds all over winter. They do enjoy them.xxx

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    1. And not just the birds, Dina, but all the other creatures in the garden. I love a bit of biodiversity! Any fallen veg patch apples get strangely moved around overnight so I'm certain that foxes have a quick nibble, which is better than them trying out my butternut squashes! xx

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    1. I hope you enjoyed this post, Endah, although I suspect that you're another grower that wastes nothing!

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  9. Caro, I so enjoyed reading this post. 10 kg of fruit - I am super impressed with your efforts. I went to a friend's house last month - like your niece she had apples everywhere. I helped myself to a big bag full - nothing like your efforts I'm afraid, but every little helps. I'm hoping in your next post that you've sourced a pig for the remainder!!! :-) x

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    1. Lol! I once lived in Yorkshire for a few years when my Dad's job took the family there and I loved to watch the pigs on the nearby farm, especially the piglets - soooo sweet! Your comment made me smile - a pig would indeed have been useful in my niece's garden, if only for a day or two! It seems that 2016 was a very good year for fruit - let's hope for the same in 2017 - I might have finished the apples by then! xx

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  10. You have been busy preserving the apples. I too would have hated to see them all wasted. Sarah x

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    1. I'm very much like my gran in that I hate to see good food wasted, even if it means hours in the kitchen preserving it! xx

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  11. Thanks for your sharing so much.I enjoy apple and my family too :)

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    1. Well done for getting your family eating fruit, Richard - the kids here love to eat apples straight from the tree - as long as I can keep them off the fruit until it ripens fully!

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  12. Thanks for the information. It will help a lot.

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    1. Thanks Michelle, I'm pleased my post has been useful.

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Caro x

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