As a New Year and a New Decade begin, The English Apple Man looks forward to the coming year.
At the start of each New Year we look forward with hope and anticipation and maybe a little apprehension!
Politically a new dawn breaks and I am more than aware of the divisive nature of the Brexit debate, with families and friends taking polar opposite views. Either way, the wounds will not heal easily!
As we move into the new year The English Apple Man (on a personal basis) for the first time in my life, has needed to draw on the expertise of our NHS Hospitals. I have been very lucky, never broken anything despite playing competitive football in my younger days, never had the need for hospital treatment; 'until now'
At the moment we are in the 'exploratory diagnostic phase' with more to come!
The care of health professionals - Doctors & Nursing staff has been exemplary.
Looking ahead to the impact of Brexit on our farming and particularly fruit industry post EU membership, the lack of harvest workers is the major concern. Government has promised to increase the (trial) SAWS limit from the current 2,500 to 10,000 - sounds supportive but we currently need 70,000 to stand a chance of harvesting efficiently our soft, stone and top fruit.
For Christmas, Poppy, our Cocker Spaniel presented me with a book I have had my eye on! The LOST ORCHARD by Raymond Blanc
I am only 26 pages in so far, but it is a delightfully romantic appraisal of Raymond Blanc's passion for the unique flavours of the many heritage, and some not so old varieties, he grows in his English & French orchards at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire.
Raymond Blanc eloquently describes how his great friend Will Sibley (Nurseryman and former Master of The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers) accompanied him on a number of 'forays' into France searching for the fruits remembered by Raymond in the region he grew up in: Franche-Comte in Eastern France. Among the many fruits, Apricots from around Nimes were the first discovered and planted at Le Manoir.
Will Sibley was integral to selecting the fruits for the 'tastes and textures' section of the orchard, in which Raymond grows the varieties specifically for us in the Le Manoir kitchens!
Raymond Blanc also visited RHS Wisley with 1.300 different fruit cultivars and 700 apples, 175 pears and 100 plums. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent with 150 acres of orchards and 2,200 different varieties of apple, 550 of pear, 337 varieties of plum and 285 varieties of cherry.
Raymond Blanc also mentions his visit to Professor Barrie Juniper's orchard in Oxfordshire described as 'a sanctuary of one of the oldest and beautifully natural, even scruffy, apple orchards in England.
Barrie is the author of The Story of the Apple his book recounting his visit to the Fruit Forests in Tian Shan in Western China.
Barrie is retired from his role at Oxford University.
Barrie E. Juniper, University of Oxford, is a pioneer in the study of plant surfaces, including the specialized ones of insect-catching carnivorous plants.
His research interests also include the interaction between people, their animals, and the evolution of crop plants also an Emeritus Reader at the University of Oxford and a Fellow Emeritus of St Catherine's College, Oxford.
Barrie's orchard in Oxford was featured in The English Apple Man Journal for 21st September 2018 when with our mutual friend Sean Morris I visited the orchard.
Below: Barrie Juniper showed me this apple which came directly from the Tian Shan where it grows in the wild forests
Below: left; Newton Wonder and right; Leather Coat (described by Barrie as Shakespeare's Apple
As mentioned I am only a little way into Raymond Blanc's excellent book, but I will be dipping in, and reporting on a regular basis his 'orchard adventure story'
That is all for this week
The English Apple Man