Friday, 20 August 2010

Satchkin Patchkin

Devonshire Quarrenden
I spent most of yesterday up a tree. But there is method in my madness – I was picking the first apples of the season. We picked the Discovery a week or so ago to finish ripening off the tree as they were being so badly attacked by birds and squirrels, other than that we have big green Reverend W Wilks and the early eater Devonshire Quarrenden.

The problem with early apples is that they don’t store all that well – the Quarrenden is a beautiful, deep red creature, all tart and juicy, but within about a week the flesh starts to become speckled with brown. And Rev Wilks is so soft that you can bruise it with your fingers as you pick it.

So we picked carefully, sent some of the lovely fruit to the Royal Oak Inn, the shop and a B&B. Apple crumble is back on the menu and we have sent a whole bunch of fruit for juice. And for my next trick I will make some chutney.

I rather like apple picking. It reminds me of the story book Satchkin Patchkin by Helen Morgan, Ilustrated by Shirley Hughes. The eponymous little green magic man, dressed in apple leaves, helps the old lady thwart her cold-hearted landlord by making apple and blackberry pies and building a micro-business to pay her rent (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would be proud), so she in the end can re-thatch her tip-tilted roof, buy a donkey, and generally feed herself and not get evicted. The end of each chapter goes “My name is Satchkin Patchkin and I live, like a leaf, in the apple tree”. And when the lady is secure and autumn comes, he drifts like a leaf from the apple tree and so the story ends. Recommended.

Back in Berkshire, I am still puzzled about the cooking apple tree in my garden. It looks and tastes like Bramley’s Seedling, but the fruit appears to be ripening and dropping a good six weeks too early. According to Dr Hessayon’s fruit book it should ripen in mid Oct, which it currently is not. Maybe it is just keen.

In print at the moment: Amateur Gardening, Cover date 21st Aug writing about my visit to the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, and The English Garden, Sept Issue, on the gloriously colourful garden at Baggage Chute in Berks.

Listening to: Skunk Anansie

Geeky observation: I noticed that in ‘The History of Everything’ by Barenaked Ladies there is the lyric ‘The autotrophs began to drool..’. Autotrophs make their own food from light, water and the odd simple chemical. They is plants, innit. No salivery glands=no drooling. I then discovered, via a quick web-search, that I am not the only pedant on the planet...