Thursday, 24 February 2011

Fruits of our labours.

Being brought up during the Second World War meant that oranges and bananas were virtually non-existent - a distant memory. The convoys which regularly braved the terrors of the German submarines had far more important cargoes of food to bring in.

After the war these fruits began to appear again and I remember eating tangerines, clementines, bananas, coconut and maybe even the occasional pineapple. And of course we could always buy them in tins.

We had fruit in our garden always - damsons, apples, pears, raspberries, strawberries, plums, gooseberries, red and black currants - but we did not have a freezer so when the crop was finished it was made into jam or into bottled fruit and that was always a bit of a nightmare with the old Kilner jars and getting them to seal properly.

This week I just happened to notice the variety of fruits on offer in my local supermarket. I am not speaking here of the big Tesco store but my small supermarket in our little market town. There were coconuts, pineapple, fresh dates, kumquats, lemons, limes, four kinds of oranges, six types of apple, two kinds of pear, two kinds of plum, peaches, bananas, black and green grapes, red currants, raspberries, strawberries, blue berries, blackberries - all of them imported, and I have to say that most of them pretty tasteless at this time of the year. Then, of course, there was forced rhubarb from our Yorkshire triangle. Children are now growing up with this huge variety of fruit to choose from; growing up familiar with all these fruits.

But what has happened to the good old English apple? Where are James Grieve, Laxton Superb, Beauty of Bath, Beauty of Kent, Cox's Orange pippin and the like?
Don't compare the Cox's in the shops with the good old English variety. Why does no apple really taste of apple when you sink your teeth into it?

I talked to the greengrocer on our market stall about this and he says that most of the fruit in our supermarkets is put into cold storage until it is needed and is then brought out. Once it hits normal shop temperatures it begins to wilt and the taste is largely destroyed.

My Uncle Albert used to store his Bramley and James Grieve apples on the attic floor in wooden crates. As you went up the attic stairs the smell of Summer greeted you - I can smell it still if I close my eyes.

Maybe in apple-growing areas like the Vale of Evesham you can still get the old-fashioned varieties in the shops at the right time of the year. If so, then I wish, come next October, then would send a few boxes up here.


##Various people asked what poems I read yesterday at our Poetry afternoon. I chose to read Poetry for children - and I was pleased I had done so as one member of our group had brought her teenage grand-daughter. This is the list of what I read:-

Ogden Nash - The Tale of Custard the Dragon.
TS Eliot - the AD-dressing of Cats.
William Cowper - The Nightingale and the Gloworm.

Cowper is a poet who has been largely forgotten. He had such a sad life - as did John Clare. I might do a post on both of them tomorrow if nothing more exciting comes up.

Speaking of excitement - the farmer saw a pure white stoat running along the wall yesterday - he couldn't wait to tell me when I returned.

25 comments:

Tom Stephenson said...

My father used to wrap apples in newspaper then store them in the wine cellar we had. The smell of old apples always brings me back to that little, dark cellar even now. It's a shame that we are spoilt for choice, as the 1st strawberry of the season was always a massive and exciting highlight to the summer.

Pranavam Ravikumar a.k.a. Kochuravi said...

What a lovely post...! My wishes!

MorningAJ said...

What you need is to plant some apple trees. Yes, I know it'll be a few years before you get apples off them but think what you'd be investing in for future generations!

We always had apples growing at the bottom of our garden and it pains me that I haven't got the space where I live now.

Arija said...

We live in an area where a great number of fruit are grown which we purchase at the farmers' market. Some of the stall holders obviously have not as much cool storage as others and bring the freshly picked fruit in. We avoid some of the others whose fruit obviously goes directly into storage. I can tell straight away by the taste.
I too remember storing apples in the attic. Mother also dried a lot of fruit for compote in our long, hard winters.

Reader Wil said...

My mum used to bottle vegetables and fruit from our kitchen garden. She had so many jars that she had to give them to visitors and relatives.

steven said...

weaver - my dad always used to beomoan the lack of variety in apples and referred to varieties long gone with sucxh a look that i knew i was missing out on something special. even in my lifetime i have seen russets disappear from the shops here!!! a sorry loss. steven

Totalfeckineejit said...

Great apple names there Weaver, don't think I've even heard of half of them, let alone tasted them! I'm jealous of The Farmer's rare sighting!

NanU said...

It's sad to see so much foreign fruit in the shops, so tasteless and travelworn that people get turned off of fruit altogether. So much better to eat seasonally, and locally, savoring exotic things on special occassions - and for travel to where the novelty is in season and local. (Where possible, of course; there are places where there simply isn't any fruit for much of the year.)
My niece hates apples because they're all so boring. What a shame to hear this from a kid who lives in perfectly good apple-growing territory. Only nobody has apple trees in their yard. Nobody at all.

jeanette from everton terrace said...

My husband and I are always talking about this, how fruit just doesn't taste the same anymore. Like you said, it tastes like nothing. The strawberries I can get here are the best example - no flavor at all. Once in while when we find some at a fresh farmer's market we close our eyes and savor them. Saying "it tastes like a REAL strawberry". The best I've ever had were the ones we would buy on the side of the road in Ireland when I was young. The entire box would usually be gone by the time we got home - so so good.

Crafty Green Poet said...

My partner's parents have a James Greive or possibly a laxtons tree in their garden, wonderful apples, the only ones I eat....

About your comment about the dippers - dippers do breed early, I saw them with young very early in the year a couple of years ago, and the ones i saw the other day were definitely collecting nest materials, i don't think they're related to blackbirds...

Pondside said...

We have our own small orchard started here, and the apples are wonderful. I think we'll all soon be paying a whole lot more for all that imported fruit due to the troubles in Libya and elsewhere. The oil needed to transport all that luxury is getting more and more expensive.

Dave King said...

We were talking about the tastelessness of fruit only the other day - not a coincidence, we're often talking about it! Near us are the RHs gardens at Wisley, a favourite spot of ours. I noticed, back in the summer, that the varieties (some of them) that I remember from my childhood, were growing in their orchards. I have been told that one reason that we don't see them in the shops is the EU directive that the fruit must be "reachable from the ground". No ladders to be involved!

Caroline Gill said...

So pleased to read your poem choices, Weaver - terrific. Wish we could all have heard them. I have my poetry group next week ... am busy trying to finish a Prose Poem (hope it's not 'PP' for purple prose!). I have a very soft spot for Cowper: he must have been so different from John Newton, and yet their paths crossed for a while. Oh and BTW, the 'Cox' I had for breakfast was a poor shadow of itself (or what it should have been) ... we used to have the most wonderful ones off the trees when I was growing up in Kent and Norfolk. Also: does the Farmer call the white stoat an Ermine - or not these days? (... or was it albino?)

Dartford Warbler said...

I try to avoid out-of-season fruit as it tastes of very little and costs a fortune. Raspberries from Morocco, strawberries from Egypt, blueberries from Chile...and so it goes on.

We are planning to plant a few more fruit trees this year and have discovered that there are some nurseries that specialise in the older and more "endangered" apple varieties. I have just made a crumble from some of last year`s Bramleys that I stewed and put in the freezer. I hope some of the taste stayed where it should!

Heather said...

Oh how I agree with you Pat, and I too can smell the apples stored in grandad's shed. I think each fruit was loosely wrapped in newspaper then placed into an old chest of drawers and regularly checked. I can still remember the shock of having to actually pay for fruit when I had left home - grandad was generous and kept most of the family supplied. The hut was rather grand and had latticed windows and was pressed into service as spare accommodation from time to time - my parents lived in it for a while. Glad you enjoyed your Poetry Group, and what a thrill to see a white stoat.

mrsnesbitt said...

My in Laws bought us a Discovery Apple Tree for our 1st wedding anniversary. Here we are 23 years later - the taste is awesome. Our house has a number of old fruit trees - many years ago this plot was the village green surrounded by an orchard - I'll take you round one day when you call! Dxx

angryparsnip said...

I haven't bought an apple for a long time, they are all so tasteless.
What I read was the apple (in the US) was bred for looks, everyone wanted pure RED apples with no yellow so now the wonderful apples from Washington State look great but have no taste.
There are many orchards in that state that are now trying to reverse this problem.

Thank goodness I have all my citrus trees.

cheers, parsnip

Tess Kincaid said...

I would have enjoyed hearing your read your delightful selection of poems. I had to look up stoat. It must be what we call a weasel in my neck of the woods. Rare, a pure white one!

Jo said...

Like Tess, I had to look up what a stoat is. Yes, it's what Americans call a weasel, but I love the word stoat much more. I look forward to calling someone a "low-down stoat" one day soon, as someone will surely be deserving of it at some point. I can't wait to explain what it means.

Thank you so much for the delightful peek into the orchards and produce bins of long ago. What a treat!

Glad the poetry reading went well...fab selections.

Cloudia said...

I gladly pay extra for organic fruit that has a taste to it!


love your posts.




Aloha from Honolulu,


Comfort Spiral

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Robin Mac said...

We have the same problem here in Oz - with fruit imported from all over the world - and very tasteless. I never buy it, I would rather purchase locally (or Australian grown anyway) fruit in season - much more flavour. I think today's plant breeders are looking for fruit which is VERY large, has a long shelf life, and hang the taste.
I have always been a fan of William Cowper. Cheers

Bovey Belle said...

I still have boxes and boxes of apples from our trees, stored downstairs in the cool of the dairy kitchen that became part of mum's flat. The scent when you walk in the room is DIVINE! I have to make regular apple pies to try and use them up.

As for old sorts of apples, I had a wonderful time in Hay-on-Wye last autumn, when I discovered old varieties for sale in a greengrocers - I think I blogged a post about them, I was so excited! Oh, the FLAVOURS . . .

Rachel said...

Let's hope the little white stoat doesn't venture under the hen hut like the last one did.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Some of your comments made my mouth water - so you can still get the old varieties is some parts of the country. I have bought apples this morning from our local market and every one is the same shape, size and colour - the same goes for the tomatoes. Go to a market in Italy or France and they are all scabby and ill-shapen but they taste delicious. I suppose they send all their perfect ones over here to sit in cold storage.

Thanks for the comments.

ArtPropelled said...

You're jogging my memory with T.S.Eliot's cat poem. A dog's a dog and a cat's a cat .... and all that. We always had Siamese cats which is somewhere in between. Half dog and half cat... in my opinion.

Exciting sighting of snow white stoat!