I love the Autumn watching the first signs of seasanal change, the colours of the leaves, the beginnings of decay in the air. The colds and flus that come at each seasonal shift can be treated with the plentiful elderberries so efficient at supporting our immune systems.
The Harvest time is a time of intense busyness, the picking and then creative ways of storing all the plenty. Hawthorn ketchups, rosehips n crab apple jams, rowan jellies the list goes on n on.
I live in a tiny village Northaw, one of the last bastions of country before the Metropolis of London just outside the M25. Northaw has a long history of fruit growing having a few ancient Damsons left from the large orchard that was around the church, a road called Vineyards that was once filled with grapes and a 150 yr olds apple orchard at the manor house. The Manor House (1686) is now owned by a firm of Architects who kindly let us come and pick a few apples from the heaving orchard, nobody harvests these amazing apples. It seems so totally crazy to me that 2 miles down the road tescos and sainsburys and the coop sell apples from New Zealand for £2.50 for 6 and people actually buy them?
This annual wasted harvest of free resources goes uncommented. The collection of fruit from abandoned orchards, are outdated activities, no one has the time anymore to engage and respect our nature cycles.
Even less noted are the sloes, wild damsons, crab-apples and hazelnuts, no longer even noticed, the ‘scenery’ of a countryside which has itself become another item of consumption by urban society. Our ancient Damson trees are being uprooted by familes that don’t want o deal with the mess that the plums make when they drop from the trees.
‘It seems that things are no longer perceived to have value unless they are traded in the market. The forlorn harvests of the British countryside are a metaphor for the market economy. Things that are freely available do not figure in any economic accounting system, and for that reason are despised and rejected. The economic system itself sanctifies the commodities it blesses by its pricing system.’ www.urbanharvest.org.uk/
We brought 5 large boxes of apples back home which are now living in my living room with us whilst we think of new ways to eat and store them.
Orchards have acted as centres for ‘songs, recipes, cider, festive gatherings... wisdom gathered over generations about pruning and grafting, aspect and slope, soil and season, variety and use. The Wassail is one such example of these ‘festive gatherings’ designed to ward off evil spirits and encourage productive cropping in the coming year. This year we are planning an Autumn Equinox celebration and harvest day at a friends orchard, we are borrowing a commercial press and enlisting the help of all those who are interested.
Each morning we juice 7-8 apples for a fresh start to our day, then a bit of apple compot on our porridge. I have invested in a dehydrator to make apple rings by the hundreds. Our family favourite is Apple Strudel.
Orchards have been a component of the British landscape for many centuries and the common apple has a complex history. DNA evidence suggests that of the almost 3,000 apple varieties that populate British orchards, all are the descendants of the wild sweet apple Malus pumila of Asia, unrelated to the native European crab apple Malus sylvestris.
The Romans are credited with introducing the sweet apple Malus pumila and the pear Pyrus communis. The Saxon invaders who followed the Romans left a scattering of place-names, such as Applegarth (‘apple orchard’) and Appleton (‘where apples grow’).
During the 17th century much of our fruit growing expertise centred around aristocratic nurserymen, who were influenced by continental, and particularly French fruit-growing heritage. These wealthy travelling plantsmen collected fruit varieties and established orchards in the estates and large houses of England. Orchards became widely associated with the aristocracy, as illustrated by the number of National Trust properties that incorporate historic orchards.
The first written records of cider-making date from the reign of King John (1199-1216). By 1700 the counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset already had a well-established tradition of orcharding for the production of cider and perry. These proliferating farm orchards would often have been dual purpose: providing fruit to eat, cook or store for the farm as well as juice and alcohol. Cider became a component of the farm labourer’s wage.
Since 1950, fewer and fewer traditional orchards have been planted and the national stock of standard fruit trees is now heavily biased towards an older generation of trees that are more than 50 years old.
Over the last century virtually all fruit grown for the consumer market has been produced in intensive commercial orchards that utilise a range of chemical treatments and trees planted closely in rows along herbicide treated strips. Striping the fruit of valuable nutrients.
Organic Apples from community orchards give us amazing medicine the saying ‘ and apple a day keeps the docter away’ shows how valued as medicine apples have been in our not too distant past.
All whole plant foods are rich in beneficial, nutritionally active substances called phytochemicals. Plants make up to 100,000 kinds of these substances to protect themselves from insects, infections, the strong energy in sunlight, and other threats. These include the substances that determine the appealing colours, delightful aromas, and delicious flavors of whole plant foods. In apples, over 250 kinds of phytochemicals determine the fragrance alone.
These protective substances are densest in the skin of the apple. This makes sense when you remember that the skin must protect the fruit and seeds from natural forces that could cause premature decay, thus preventing the seed from growing into a new tree.
Apple trees nourish our sense of beauty with their twisting branches, heavy with blooms or fruit. Walking in or even gazing at an apple orchard is soothing and induces a strong sense of well-being and artistic inspiration.
The Wisdom of the Apple Tree- by Glennie Kindred
The sheer extravagant abundance of apples on an apple tree in the autumn is the key to understanding what the apple tree has to teach us. It shows us how to give all, in total trust that all will be replenished. It teaches us to open our hearts to the abundance in our lives. When we, like the apple tree, give all of ourselves freely and openly, our hearts are open to receiving more. Holding back is a symptom of greed and insecurity. The apple's message is to value and celebrate all you have in your life. Many feelings of bitterness, irritation and anger result from feeling a lack of worthiness. These negative feelings create a pattern of imbalance which can significantly reduce the flow of the life force energy in your body. If you do not feel worthy to receive certain things, the way for them to come to you will be blocked, as you have believed it to be. By affirming and feeling thankful for what you have in the present, you open up the channels for your own abundance.
The Apple tree is there to help all of us to keep our trust in times of lack, and teaches us our true power is built up by giving, in open-hearted generosity. The Apple tree's spirit can help those who harm themselves by their miserliness.