In these difficult times, and with time on our hands in 'lockdown' looking back over the life we have led, especially for us 'senior citizens' brings many nostalgic times to the forefront our minds.
Below: Dan The Apple Man
Throughout my life, I have been very lucky to meet and get to know many of the great characters of our fruit industry and by coincidence last week I stumbled on a 'Linkedin' post by one of those characters.
So today I reminisce back to the days of my youth, when life was simpler and Coronavirus was just an idea in a science fiction writer's head!!!!
Back in 1959, my father remarried (we had lost our mother five years earlier to severe illness).
Below: The English Apple Man's Dad, Stepmother and my son Stuart circa 1969
Our stepmother is German and came to England in 1954 as a nurse working at a Hospital in Hastings East Sussex, where she happened to nurse my father who suffered badly from Psoriasis. In time they fell in love and married in the early summer of 1959.
During the summer they set off for Germany to meet his new in-laws, driving from Calais to her parents in Gelsenkirchen.
While they had a great time in Germany with her family - 'schnapps was mentioned' when Dad was in the company of his new Father-in-Law at a local bar and with neither speaking each other's language, Dad told me he could only remember ich hatte genug - I have had enough!!!
On returning Dad was telling me excitedly how he had 'seen the future' as they travelled through Belgium!
He saw for the first time a new style of growing apples: replacing the traditional 'open centre' trees with a new style of 'centre leader' trees - "the Spindlebush"
Unknown to me then. a young Dutchman and his wife were planting the first spindle bush trees in Suffolk. I learnt of this when reading my copy of The Fruit Grower Magazine circa 1959/60.
This young Dutchman and my father's excitement when seeing spindle bush orchards in Belgium led to us planting new orchards in the later 1960s - it would have been earlier but Dad was persuaded not to venture into the new format by an advisor from MAFF!!!!!!
At that period of time, we supplied McCloud McCombe in Spitalfields Market (the old market) along with John Hunt a fruit grower in East Sussex and 'Dan Neuteboom. In 1970 Spitalfields celebrated its 50 years since 1920 the City of London acquired direct control of the market, extending the original buildings eight years later. For the next 60 years, Spitalfields' nationwide reputation grew, as did the traffic congestion in the narrow streets around it.
To view the 'Spitalfields history' Click on The Old Spitalfields Market
We were invited by Norman & George McCombe to the 1970 celebrations.
'We' being Mum & Dad, me and my wife. There we met for the first time Dan Neuteboom by now making a name for himself as one of the most progressive young apple growers in England.
Dan was such a charismatic young man, (circa 4 years older than me) full of new ideas and immediately captured me as a follower!
In the years ahead he spoke at many gatherings of fruit growers: fruit societies, conferences et al.
I followed his presentations enthusiastically and tried to put into practice the tree management strategy he so vividly portrayed.
In 1990 however, I decided the future looked uncertain for a small/medium-sized apple farm and I reluctantly sold the farm. My foresight proved correct and the 1990s proved a hard time for apple growers with imports of cheap Golden Delicious, Gala and Braeburn impacting on British growers profitability.
During the 1990's many fruit growers gave up the struggle and either sold or rented their land to others.
A new beginning
In 1994 - I joined Home Grown Fruit (HGF) the largest UK Apple & Pear Cooperative as one of the Quality Assurance Team. The role required weekly visits to the grower/packers by a member of the QA Team. we worked on a 3 week cycle so every thee weeks I would be tasked with visiting the same grower. One of the larger grower packers was Dan Neuteboom located at Hemingstone Fruit Farm in a a village north of Ipswich.
This gave me the opportunity to rekindle my relationship with Dan!
Dan Neuteboom has been involved in top fruit for his entire career, from the age of 24 until his retirement. Though he was born in the Netherlands, he spent his entire working life in the UK, championing the cause of English home-grown fruit.
Now having retired from growing commercially, Dan continues with his love of all things apple (& pear) bringing his lifetime knowledge and passion to the benefit of gardeners and small growers via his website; 'Real English Fruit'
REAL ENGLISH FRUIT
This week's English Apple Man Journal will draw elements from Dan's website giving readers a taste of the spread of information available from one of our most innovative fruit growers. His advice on all matters relating to general husbandry and detailed demonstrations via Video of Budding, Grafting, Planting, Pruning etc. represent a plethora of advice to the gardener and any fruit growing enthusiast.
Extracts from Real English Fruit follows
Fruit tree growing
"How to grow fruit in the UK | pruning fruit trees | apple, pear, plum, cherry, apricot, peach, nectarine, sweet chestnut, walnut, crab apple, cob nut, medlar, black mulberry, quince and many more!
Growing in Soil
"Soil is the home of the fruit tree, and so everything possible should be done to make it as pleasant as possible for the trees to live in and happily produce crops for the next 50 years or so.
The parts of the tree below ground level, the roots of the trees, must be able to function effectively in order to support the numerous demands of all the remaining parts of the tree above soil level.
Fruit trees are very sensitive. Particularly the first year after planting. Usually if planting is carried out correctly, then the first step has been made to ensuring that the trees do well.
Growing trees in pots
"Are fruit trees suitable for growing in a pot, and producing fruit? Just visualize the enormous change we humans present to potted fruit trees. Under normal conditions, planted in the ground, the trees can explore and find the nutritional elements they need in a great volume of soil. If they cannot find what they need close by, the tree roots grow either deeper or further outwards until they finds the major/trace elements essential for their wellbeing.
"If however we plant our trees in a container, then we dramatically curtail root growth and make the trees very much dependent on us for their nutrition and moisture requirements.
"The purpose of these videos is to follow the development of fruit trees throughout the seasons of winter, spring, summer and autumn. As for all living matter in nature, trees have to battle against a whole range of adversities as days go by.
Once we get to know these adversities, it will become clear, particularly in the early years, when a modest amount of support from us will improve the fruit tree's quality of life.
This in turn will enable the tree to provide you with its delicious, natural and health-promoting fruit, grown in your own garden.
"We are currently working on the production of these videos, and they are listed in chronological order. Each link takes you to a page where you can watch the video and read an accompanying text.
On Dan's website there are many instructional Videos which will be useful to 'budding enthusiasts' - the one below demonstrates how to chip bud a scion onto a rootstock.
Click on CHIP BUDDING
Click on Dan Neuteboom to see Dan's full story
Below - a message from Dan to The English Apple Man
"It is great we both are still around in a reasonable state of health. You and I, both of us, loved fruit growing.
Neither of us have lost the intricate relationship with Nature, which includes the growing of fruit.
Our main aim is still the same; passing on the knowledge we have gained, based on practical experience, to date.
I still love to participate with a stand on the farmers market at Ricking Hall and Beccles, selling fruit grown by me and my wife. This we have done since 1990. We have made so many friends on those markets, I hope to continue as long I have the strength to do so.
With best wishes,
Dan, the apple man.
A message from Produced in Kent
An incredible 16 business have launched new products in the last month, 128 businesses have started home delivery.
10 businesses have been supporting NHS workers, 80 now offer call and collect service, 33 offer click and collect, 3 have been making sanitiser.
1 has employed a new member of staff, 3 are creating regular wellness videos, 4 virtual events have been hosted, 15 businesses are regularly supporting vulnerable people in the community, countless recipes have been generated and Produced in Kent launched a microsite helpkentbuylocal.co.uk, which now has over 250 businesses listed.
Floortje Hoette, chief executive comments, "The coming together of the Kent community has been incredible. We've seen an enormous rise in the support for our local shops and producers. Many people are swapping to local food suppliers - for some it's the first time they've tried shopping locally."
With face masks in the news a 'maybe' measure for all of us in public, a friend: Tracey Rose whose dressmaking business is a bit quiet at the moment: Tracey would normally be creating wedding dresses, so she has launched a range of 'trendy' face masks.
Below: left; The English Apple Man's 'Fruity face mask and right; Mrs Apple Man's face mask
Tracey has circa 20 design options and each mask costs £10 + post & packaging.
Tracey can be contacted @ Tracey Rose email
That is all for this week, please stay safe
The English Apple Man