Growing up in the middle of the English County of Kent, known as the “Garden of England”, we took abundant and varied apples for granted. Our first garden in East Malling was too small for apple trees but we went, as a family, up Chapel Street to Miss Parr-Dudley’s orchard; picked some for her and kept some for us. We would see her with her two elderly snuffling dogs in tow. How I loved apple picking days. I was allowed up the ladder as the oldest of four sisters. We had strict instructions not to bruise the apples. Carefully lean over, twist and pull the apple, place in your shoulder bag; no throwing of apples allowed. My younger sisters picked up the windfalls from under the trees, trying not to get hit with an apple on the head. The smell of autumn was in the air, our noses were filled with tangy fragrances; slightly rotting apples, decaying leaves. The initial sense of fun turned to tiredness and boredom. We played in a broken down shed with rusty old corrugated iron and an axe, leaving our parents to continue the picking. Of course I managed to slice open my thumb- I still have the scar to prove it. I am sure that my Mum was not pleased with me, “messing around.” The sun fell lower in the sky. The days were noticeably shorter now and there was a chill in the air. Time to load up the baskets into the wheelbarrow and walk back home. Back down the footpath that led from the buttercup and daisy field, full of Jersey Cows, Cross the street and down the hill. If you have ever wheeled a traditional one-wheeled barrow, you know that when heavily loaded there is trick to maintaining stability. I was probably too inexperienced to get the wheelbarrow job but disaster struck as I tried to bump the wheel up the curb onto the pavement. Down fell the wheelbarrow, down rolled the apples tumbling, bruising down the gutter. All hands scrambled to catch the rolling apples. After all that work to be gentle with the apples. Oh no! Luckily we laughed. I sure that I had a “speaking to” later but it was a memorable outing.
My Kentish grandparents lived in the neighboring village of Ditton. They grew apples, quinces, damsons and greengages. All were harvested and stored. Jam bubbled on the stove for weeks, sliced fruit was bottled, sealed and lined up on the shelf for winter meals. My favorite apple storage place was the shed. In amongst the boxes of string, old tins corralling useful oddments, above the push- lawnmower (green and red with a grass catcher on the back) were trays of apples. The smell of apples mingled with that distinctive slightly oily smell of old sheds. All the apples were laid separately so that if one became moldy it did not infect its neighbors. The huge, Bramleys that would be used for cooking, bright green and weighing in at a pound or two each. The sandpapery skins of the Russets with their unique taste. Little ones, red ones, keepers and cookers, all lined up for eating and cooking. My Gran used the fruit to make the best pies ever; melt in your mouth pastry, tons of fruit in the center.
If you want to look at different apple varieties- check out the orange pippin website- named after the Coxes Orange Pippin apple- wow that thought is making my mouth water – http://www.orangepippin.com/
I hope that you can find some windfalls (either apples or “unexpected good fortune”) as we celebrate the beauties and joys of the autumn.