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...


  1. LOVE this time of year and agree with you - there's no better place to be than up an apple tree! My 100 year old Blenheim Orange which we thought we'd killed with a heavy handed prune last year has come through the other side and is producing a wonderful crop. Bring on some blackberry and apple crumble! The great thing about Blenheim Orange is it's dual purpose - gorgeous to eat - but holds its shape when cooked! Perfect.
    By the way if you're an apple fan - don't miss Apple Weekend at Waterperry Gardens on the 8th, 9th and 10th October! You can even get your mystery cooker identified by the experts Naomi! See you there?

  2. Hi Naomi. I love those apple photos - they're such gorgeous colours, and really epitomise the concept of autumn and harvest. A recent National Trust gardening blog has declared it a bumper year for October fruits, so I'm tempted to follow you down the chutney-making route! I must just mention The Vyne's Orchard Day on 16 October, which will introduce visitors to the delights of old apple varieties such as Catshead and Easter Orange. Yum. Sound so much more interesting than Golden Delicious.