September is a month of mixtures. It is the end of summer and beginning of Autumn, end of holidays and beginning of a new school year, it is a round and warm month, with chilly nights and misty mornings.
But one thing is for certain in Fulham and Hammersmith and that it is about abundance. The weather last winter, long and cold, and warm dry spring has led to a bumper crop of apples and pears this autumn. The crop is a big one but with smaller sized apples.
Organisations like Abundance London and the Hammersmith Community Gardens Association are encouraging city dwellers in West London to make the most of our apple trees. Rather than let them rot and chuck them away, there are several apple collecting initiatives afoot. Abundance London run by Karen Leibreich MBE has for several years now run apple picking with local primary school schools, sharing the harvest among the families in the community.
This autumn, so too is John Betts School which is organising trips with the children to gather apples and pears from local fruit trees.
So what is so attractive about apples? They are a beautiful, rosy round fruit with a delicious crunch and delightful blend of sweetness and tartness. Their versatility is also appealing from just eating a fresh apple to making a delicious
and often comforting pudding. They are the base of traditional puddings like Apple Crumble and Apple Pie. They make apple puree that babies are often weaned on and apple juice, a favourite among children, and cider, another charming drink for adults especially popular in the west Country and Normandy.
They are healthy as the old adage goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Apples also represent a very real link with nature. Apple blossom needs to be pollinated by bees and some apple trees require the bees and insects to visit up to four apple trees in order for fertilization to take place and the apple fruit to develop. It is a complex process with different varieties requiring a number of circumstances. When you see a tree full of apples you know the bees have been busy and nature working hard to produce such abundance. It is a wonder that these trees blossom and fruit in our urban environment of the city but they do.
Also, all apple trees are grafted which means to maintain particular varieties a branch or scion from the tree is taken and cut in special way (whip and tongue, chip budding or T-budding graft) and then taped to a rootstock, lower part of a fruit trees. The rootstock determines the size of the tree and the upper branch or scion, the variety. I grafted my first apple tree this Spring and it has taken and is growing well, and I have already potted it up once. We planted a ‘Ruben’ apple tree at the school allotment a couple of years ago, bought at Abundance London’s Apple Fest, and it is richly revealing a bountiful harvest of around eight apples this year. The children are delighted and I am wondering how to divide them up between our 28 eager young gardeners!
And some trees were here before the houses and looking at old maps you can see many orchards in the area before urbanization. There is even a local variety.
Miranda Poliakoff, Fulham Palace’s curator says, "There is a variety called Fearn’s Pippin which has been around since 1780 and was first grafted by Mr Bagley of Fulham."
Mr Bagley is now more famous for his box junction! And there is a Fulham Palace variety in Ravenscourt Park, according to the park keeper. Perhaps it is Fearn’s Pippin. Fulham Palace has plans to extend its established orchard of around 22 cultivars in the walled garden. It also has an apple day celebration including an apple cake baking contest to be judged by Philip Howard of The Square Restaurant (two Michelin stars).
Here are some harvest events happening in our area:
Abundance Fruit Day, St Michael and All Angels Church, Turnham Green. 5th October 2013.
Apples and Pears Festival, Ravenscourt Park Glasshouses, 12th October 2013 10 am – 4 pm
Book at email@example.com or call 07890 514050
Fulham Palace Apple Day, Fulham Palace, 13th October 2013
Celebrate this wonderful and delicious fruit this Autumn, wherever you may find it.
For advice on edible gardens, city gardens, kitchen gardens, community gardens and children’s gardens, please contact: Sarah Heaton at Sarah Heaton Gardens firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @SarahHeaton4
Hammersmith-based Sarah Heaton is a trained horticulturalist and gardener. She specialises in designing gardens, bringing nature to the city, runs a gardening club at a local primary school and supports number of local community garden projects.