October is the month for English apples and a good summer this year means there should be plenty available. It’s also a good time to seek out and try some of the varieties which aren’t sold in the shops. There are over 2,000 apple varieties, yet supermarkets usually only carry around 6 of them at a time.
One of my favourite dates in the calendar is October 21st, otherwise known as Apple Day. This was the day designated by the charity Common Ground in 1990 to celebrate the distinctiveness and quality of our apple crops.
They were also aware that many of our orchards were being lost and sought to reverse this trend by having a day dedicated to all things apple. They explain their thinking on their website:
“The aspiration was to create a calendar custom, an autumn holiday. From the start, Apple Day was intended to be both a celebration and a demonstration of the variety we are in danger of losing, not simply in apples, but in the richness and diversity of landscape, ecology and culture too. It has also played a part in raising awareness of the provenance and traceability of food.”
The inaugural Apple Day event was held in Covent Garden and has grown into over 1,000 different events today. Most of these are held sometime in October, especially on the weekends before and after October 21st. Organisations such as the National Trust and the RHS have embraced Apple Day and have fantastic events at their gardens. The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) also has some participating gardens this year. Check out the websites of these organisations for further details and dates.
I will be visiting my local community event in Trowbridge on October 11th, where I hope to learn more about some of the apple varieties which originate from Wiltshire. Your local paper or tourist information website should have further details of community led events. Local garden centres often have apple themed days too.
If there isn’t a suitable event near you, then why not have your own apple day and invite your family and friends along? Here are some ideas for activities you might like to try:
· Apple tasting – which is the most popular variety?
· Who’s got the cooking apple? (a kind of Russian roulette, but with a selection of apple slices!)
· Treasure hunt – using real apples or images
· Apple bobbing
· Longest peel competition
· Apple pie bake-off
· Apple poems and songs – bring and share, or write your own
· Apple printing (like potato printing – a good way of using up recent windfalls if they are in abundance. Or you can cut an apple in half horizontally to make a star shape stamp in the middle for printing), or other art activities using apples for inspiration
· A feast of apples – favourite recipes to bring and share
· If you have a kitchen juicer or an apple press (or can get hold of one for the day), you can have a go at making apple juice and tasting the results
Don’t worry if you don’t have an apple tree, these ideas will work with shop bought apples too. Perhaps now is the time to investigate buying a fabulous apple tree for your garden…
Michelle Chapman is a gardener, freelance writer and garden blogger based in Chippenham, Wiltshire. She is the author of the award winning blog, Veg Plotting, where she writes about her small town garden, seasonal food and anything else which strikes her whilst up at her allotment. Her blog can be found at www.vegplotting.blogspot.com