Tuesday, 27 October 2009


For various reasons, we are all but out of fruit and so have to pull out off all remaining markets this year except Sunnyfields this coming Saturday, the next 2 Winchesters and the next 2 Farehams. This is due to a somewhat low 2009 crop (Lord Lambourne failed dismally) fruit ripening quickly and not keeping well due to the very warm autumn, and extremely good sales with a lot of repeat customers.

we're really sorry, but had to make this decision as frankly we only just have enough apples for the above markets. We had hoped to have some Sturmer Pippin for the later markets but when we picked these yesterday it became clear that more than half of them suffered with bitter pit. This is a physiological disorder caused by trace element deficiency and irregular rainfall which makes the fruit taste bitter from brown spots in the flesh.
I may put up a video about bitter pit later, but for now it means we don't have any Sturmer Pippins, which means a premature end to our season. We would have held back our Winter Kings for later markets, but people really seem to like this on free tastings in October, so we are almost sold out of our late apples since we lost the mid season Lord Lambourne.
Very high specific gravities on the juice, due to warm autumn and reasonable summer sun levels, so there should be some good cider later. High sugar levels obviously can mean high alcohol levels, but also could mean some very naturally sweet ciders and also hopefully high flavour levels. I am only making 40 gallons for our own use and parties etc and wont be selling any cider, but I know someone who will be! A friend has taken most of our windfalls and half a ton of bittersweet west country cider apples and these are being made into cider which will be sold in 2010 under his own brand as a single orchard boutique cider from our apples. Contact details will go up later.

more later

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Work continues on web site rebuild

Our Apple Day event is past, I have pressed most of the cider I am going to press this year, and I am finding a little time to slowly rebuild the http://www.fruitwise.net/ web site. The new Yahoo web builder is reasonably easy to use. I am concentrating on putting back up most of the old informative content with little editing, not least to help folks who are thinking about planting trees this coming planting season. I have just put up sections on varieties, pest and diseases, and brief notes on grafting. These, and my notes on pruning, have been largely superceded by my YouTube http://www.youtube.com/stephenhayesuk videos, which have now received over 420,000 views. Its now of course much easier to blend all these elements all but seamlessly. I'll work on it, and also add as many related links as I can.
As I have said before, I share from the heart and mind but I'm still only an enthusiastic amateur and my word isn't Gospel-check out what I've written, and check out whatever else you can find before deciding what to plant.
If you are after planting West Country style cider apples, and a lot of people are this year, Dabinett is the 'nobody got fired for buying' favourite, a regular cropper and compact tree which has a fairly strong bitter sweet juice, as does its cousin Harry Master's Jersey, and these 2 must be the first choices for the beginner who wants to make some 'proper zider'. I advise beginenrs to avoid the famously delectable but very fickle growing cider apple Kingston Black, for the same reason I would avoid Cox's Orange Pippin as a dessert apple-great quality, but very difficult to grow and crop reliably. But do consider other apples such as the lovely Yarlington Mill. It doesn't crop every single year, but see the picture of the back of my mate Jez's car taken in the orchard yesterday (he ran out of boxes!). That is about half the crop from ONE TREE. Admittedly a 20 year old big spreading tree, and it didn't crop at all last year, but WHAT A GENEROUS TREE! Great medium bittersweet cider variety which will enhance any cider.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Apple Day

Julia trying to identify an apple using one of our books.
Right now I am trying to stress down after much too busy a day in too busy a month in too busy a year, and prepare myself mentally for our Apple Day tomorow. Julia's Mum has come doewn from Essex for a few days and is helping Julia make some apple cakes. I think I am going to ignore the fact that my diet has gone to pot after some considerable success this year and go pour a pint of new season's cider.
Hope to see some of you at Durley Memorial Hall tomorrow between 10.30 (note later start, we cannot get the hall ready by 10.00) and 15.00. We are allowed to sell cider there is a licence and I have got some cloudy but fresh and good new season cider, a full 3 weeks before the Beaujolais Nouveau and probably better tasting. I will be there with my books and will attempt to identifty apples. I don't charge for this as I am so bad at it! Well, we only grow 60 or so apple varieties, there are another 2,000 or so known in England, and despite the advice of myself and others who know something, people will continue to grow apples from pips.
Sowing pips from selected apples to try to raise new disease resistant or otherwise worthy new varieties as aprt of a research programme is a very good thing, but sowing a pip in your garden or a pot to try to raise an apple from seed is a TERRIBLE idea. It will almost never give you a new apple worth having, and by the time you realise you have raised a sour, boring, green apple which doesn't crop well and grows too small or too big to be practical, you will have invested 5 years or so of hope and care and just won't want to believe the harsh truth that your new apple variety is worthless. And then you move house, and someone finds the apple in your garden and tries to get it identified and of course nobody can put a name to it as its a nameless new variety. Don't do it, it's MUCH better to spend a few pounds at a nursery and help keep a tried and tested worthy old variety going.
Happy Apple Day (it's actually 21st October but mostly people celebrate it on any Saturday from mid September to mid November). And ours is tomorrow. Well, it is if you read this in the next few hours, otherwise it'll be the day before yesterday or whatever. Another event this weekend is at Burley (not to be confused with Durley) where there is a cider event at New Forest Cider, you can find them easily enough on Google. I might possibly be there on Sunday afternoon, my mate Jez and a few others from the cider workshop will be there tomorrow.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Books for Apple Day and a rare complaint

We had a very busy market at Winchester yesterday, not least as Blackmoor's fruit stall wasn't there. We should have anticipated this as of course it was their Apple Day event. We went to their fruit show some 20 years ago, before the Apple Day tradition was started by Common Ground about 12 years ago. See their site http://www.commonground.org.uk/ for details, do try to get to an event near you of you can. Shame we hardly ever get to any events but our own, next Saturday at Durley (details on right of this page) and a few others. We supplied specimens of 20 or so apple varieties to a small event at a Southampoton library and Julia will be at Damerham Apple Day the following Saturday, from noon. details on Common Ground.

Second complaint since we started trading

We had a complaint from a customer about some apple juice she brought from us. They said it went fizzy, so must be 'off' or 'contaminated' because it had gone fizzy. This is the 2nd complaint we have had in 7 years. Of course I gave a full refund and said (sincerely) I was sorry they hadn't liked it, but I do always tell people that unpasteurised apple juice will ALWAYS start to go fizzy within a day or 2 due to the natural action of wild yeast on the sugar, turning it to alcohol.

I always tell every single customer it is UNPASTEURISED juice and to put it straight in the fridge and drink or freeze it within 2 days. I have kept our own juice for 8 days on the fridge, and I love it best when it goes a bit fizzy. Once it starts to go fizzy, it in no way becomes unhealthy, it's just that the sugar is being naturally turned to alcohol, thats all cider is. The only toxic substance produced is alcohol, which is perfectly safe in moderation unless one is a serious addict or on some medications. To stop this happening you have to Pasteurise (heat treat) the juice which increases the carbon cost and takes away half of the flavour.

This is the second complaint we have had in 7 years of trading. The other one was from an elderly gentleman in 2003, I remember the year quite clearly as that was the drought year when the apples were mostly very small, although they had very high sugar levels, due to the hot dry year (we don't irrigate). The flavour was marvellous and the cider the best ever.

He complained that the apples he bought from us 2 weeks earlier had been too small, and he didn't like the flavour either. I said I was sorry he hadn't liked our apples. I didn't think to offer him his money back, I decided later that I should have done although I had no obligation. Out of respect for his age I didn't make too much about the fact that we always offer free tastings and that he might possibly have noticed the apples' admittedly small size when he bought them.

We wish all the people who have ever complaoned about a Fruitwise Heritage Apples product (both of them) our kindest regards and respectfully point out that they need not worry, as there are plenty of chlorine washed, uniform sized, plastic wrapped, beauty paraded (I'll explain that term in a later post for those who haven't read 'Not on the Label') controlled atmosphere stored, mechanically packed, pressure controlled, and above all 'crisp and crunchy' global commodity Gala, Braeburn and Pink Lady apples as well as sterile apple juice (mainly from Chinese juice concentrate) in the supermarkets.

Actually we have had several other complaints about our juice so far this year, and we expect more. One lady bought half a gallon of it at the 2 day food and drink fayre at Winchester cathedral last Saturday and then complained on Sunday as her family had drunk the lot on Saturday night and they wanted more, but we had sold out so she couldn't have any. Several other people have complained when we didn't have any juice, because they wanted some. But I can only ever bring it when we have a stock of suitable picked, washed apples which are ripe but not ideal for raw fruit sales e.g. deformed, spotty, soft, over or under sized etc, and I have time to wash and press juice the afternoon before a market. Unpasteurised apple juice has a peerless flavour but it doesn't keep. That's why we tell people to chill it immediately and then drink or freeze within 48 hours. Unles like me they enjoy it even more as it turns nto natural hard cider

good source of books

Some nice books on apples, orchards, cider and all kinds of self sufficiency can be found from eco-logic books. I have dealt with them in the past and having just had a poke from them am delighted to recommend their site, I have had a good service when I used them in the past.


Friday, 9 October 2009

coming markets

Sorry can't make Sunnyfields or the Netley Pumpkin and Autumn fair this weekend due to a reunion

Julia will be at Alton Farmers Market, she will have Suntan (sharp for eating just yet but great cooker) plus Sunset, Russets, Orleans Reinette, Kidd's Orange Red, probably a few Red Pippin (these have almost sold out, very popular. Our least 'heritage' apple, dating from just 1986, and we don't rate them highly for flavour compared to great apples like Orleans or Kidd's, but they are very atractively coloured and crunchy and this is a major selling point.)

Winchester FM in Sunday, where we will have a few of the long awaited MEDLARS. I may post a short YouTube about these with some recipe ideas. Also a few lucky people may get a Comice pear or 2. We only have the fruit from one espalier tree from our own private collection, only about 5 kg but such good specimens we'll offer most of them for sale and nibble on the rarer pears and misshapen ourselves. I have planted 30 more pear trees (Conference, Comice, Concorde and Beurre Hardy) which may begin to fruit lightly in 2010.

Next weekend is our Apple Day event at Durley Memorial Hall on Saturday 17th October from 10.30 15.00.

Julia will also be at Damerham Apple Day on Saturday 24th OCtober and the same day I will be back at Sunnyfields with apples and Juice, including some windfalls for very cheap as thre was a demand for these for home juicing, chutneys etc.

As before, anyone has any special orders, I don't want to give our home phone number out but post a comment here or email me on steveappleseed (at) hotmail (dot) co.uk which I check 2 or 3 times a week.

PS I also have to clear out some leftovers from a few little apple tree nurseries, and have some 2 year MM106 maidens on Winter King (Winston), Queen Cox, Pitmaston Pineapple and a couple of odds and ends on MM111 I don't want much for.

PS I will post links on request to any personal apple or fruit related website or blog, if asked, especially English ones. The more the merrier.

Enjoy the autumn

Monday, 5 October 2009

Apple and other fruit tree links

My web site remains in a greatly reduced state due to Yahoo pulling the plug, I will rebuild it ‘when I can find the time’ which in our house this harvest time with all my other undone jobs is a sick joke. February 2010 perhaps.

So I am posting the following APPLE AND FRUIT TREE LINKS here since so many people are asking us where they can get fruit trees including cider trees.

If you want to order any specific trees, especially cider apples, I suggest getting on with it ASAP since there is an increased interest and I know the nurseries are selling out. Also, one of the biggest, Scotts, has sadly just closed (see below) Its still a little too early to plant trees, but not to order them.

http://www.thornhayes-nursery.co.uk/ (Devon based nursery, many rare varieties including cider. Nice catalogue)

http://www.blackmoor.co.uk/ (highly reccommended, used by us with no complaints over 20 years)

http://www.deaconsnurseryfruits.co.uk/ (I got some vines from them once, good service, recommended by friends who have used them. Some cider trees)

http://www.keepers-nursery.co.uk/ (largest collection of fruit varieties. I ordered a rare pear, Seckle, from them 2 years ago, as far as I could tell nobody else had this variety. Expensive, but please support them-if they go, it could all but signal the end for many rare fruit varieties)

http://www.bernwodeplants.co.uk/ (I've not used them, friends have and say they are good. great web site, specialise in less common varieties)

http://www.hedging.co.uk/ (Buckingham nurseries. We got all our hedging and woodland plants from them, good service always. They also do apple trees)

http://www.vigoltd.com/. This is the place to go for everything to do with making cider, they also have some books

http://www.commonground.org.uk/ (the Apple Day people. click on this and see if there is an Apple Day event near you, HURRY!)


I am VERY sorry to say that Scott's nurseries of Merriot in Somerset are finally closing. They had been losing money to 'big name' plant salesmen whose outlets are easier to find, and the final blow came when a key member of the team sadly died of brain cancer aged 49. Obviously one feels very sad for him and his loved ones and the folks losing their jobs, but also for a priceless piece of English fruit heritage now apparently gone for ever. We got our original cider apples from them 20 years ago, plus perry pears (which are even harder to find) more recently. No longer available-they have had a couple of closing down sales and unless a buyer comes forwards for what's left in the next few days, according to a report I found in an online version of a local paper, the remaining stuff will be auctioned off.

This sad news just underlines the importance of looking after the rare old fruit varieties-apart from issues of beauty, history and heritage, we are going to need all the food plant genetic diversity we can hang on to with the hard times coming on the world.

But lets be cheerful and get on with it

All of the above sites are well worth a look. If you are thinking about planting fruit trees this winter, you had better make some decisions, do some research first. Remember, many mistakes can be made around planting fruit trees, but the worst mistake is not to do it.

PS thanks to everyone who visited our fruit stalls over the weekend, at Fareham on Saturday and Winchester Cathedral over the weekend. I have posted a YouTube of the cathedral bells and the market being set up. Check it out below.