Get the batting order right for apple storage

Quite a crowd turned up with a big crop of fruit at Alnwick's Bullfield Community Orchard annual pressing day. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Quite a crowd turned up with a big crop of fruit at Alnwick's Bullfield Community Orchard annual pressing day. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

It’s one thing growing a fruit crop successfully, but quite often, especially with apples and plums, there’s an unexpected problem of ‘what am I going to do with them all?’

So many friends and acquaintances have been offering bags of surplus apples in recent weeks that we must agree it’s been a bumper year for the crop.

That has certainly been the case in this garden, as one step inside the garage, where they’re stored, confirms. A fruity fragrance fills the air.

But that’s not the end of this story. Several dessert varieties are naturally late in ripening, and we have three of them – Braeburn, Jonagold and Redlove Era – none of which are showing signs of falling to ground, even after testing winds, so it’s a waiting game. Last year they were picked at the beginning of November.

Culinary varieties that store well for us – Bramley Seedling, Crimson Bramley, Howgate Wonder and Lord Derby – are almost trouble-free until spring approaches. It helps if they’re individually wrapped in a glossy magazine page and stacked in boxes, with a projection at each corner to allow air passage.

We dip into them as required for stewed desserts, apple crumble and pies.

Dessert varieties are stored in similar fashion, but as they ripen in sequence, senescence and rot can lead to waste, so regular inspection is necessary.

When you’re stacking these for daily use over the coming weeks, think of the ‘batting order’ as in cricket.

Discovery is first to ripen so it faces the first ball delivered. It goes in the topmost box. James Grieve is next to ripen and waits in the box below. Egremont Russet is ready a little later than the first two so it’s first wicket down, in the third box.

Apples still on the tree will be similarly stacked in order of ripening, and we’ll have supplies until late winter.

Apologies to non-cricketers, but this simple system works for me.

When there’s no room left to store them and you’ve failed to give the surplus away, apple jam, jelly or juice are possible options, and if the latter appeals, there’s no need for costly equipment when there’s a community orchard nearby. The volunteers who manage it will be delighted to help.

Quiz question: how many apple varieties are there in existence?

Answer: If you ate a different one each day for 20 years there would still be some left to try. It is estimated that circa 7,500 exist throughout the world, but only a fraction of these ever appear in the shops.

Nurseries that sell heritage varieties can be found online.