Sunday, 7 October 2007

Apple Day - Stamford

Apple day is the big-day-out for enthusiasts of orchards, apples, and to a lesser degree, cider. Initiated by Common Ground in 1990, the number of events which take place on or around 'Apple Day' (21st October), grows year on year.

By a strange quirk of fate, I have never actually been to an Apple Day event, though certainly not by design. This year I determined to go to at least one of our local events, Stamford being one of the nearest.

One of the main motivators behind the Stamford Apple Day is the Stamford Community Orchard Group, which is dedicated to preserving Stamford heritage apple varieties (of which there are many, though most are currently designated as 'lost'), and establishing a community orchard for the benefit of all Stamford folk. They are ably assisted by the East of England Apples & Orchards Project, an umbrella organisation which covers voluntary groups throughout the Eastern Counties area.

The Stamford Apple Day event takes place at the Arts Centre in the town centre, with participants including Beekeepers, apple produce from Stamford New College, excellent local apple juices from the Stamford Juice Co (who also make a drop of fine cider), and a host of other interesting stalls with wide family appeal.

One of the most interesting aspects of an Apple Day event is the chance to have unknown varieties of apple from your own orchard/garden identified by experts in this field. I took along a couple of specimens from the several varieties we used in our recent cidermaking, hoping to put a name to a face as it were. Some small dessert apples from our own orchard proved difficult to pin down, not helped by the size of the fruit. We really should have thinned out the bumper crop on this tree, leading to better size apples, but as anyone who grows-to-press is likely to understand, removing healthy fruitlettes from a tree groaning with appley potential somehow goes against the grain. We'll know differently next year.

Another dessert apple, which we picked from the lovely Welland Valley village of Rockingham, was quickly identified as a Worcester Permain. In retrospect, and having now looked, and tasted these apples, the rich, sweet flavour and appearance is classic Worcester, but identifying unknown apples is notoriously difficult, even for the experts, so it's nice to have a really positive ID, rather than guesswork.

The image at the start of this Blog is of one of the many trays of apples laid out to help the 'identifiers', which also made a wonderful display of our rich orchard heritage.

We aim to go to at least one other local Apple Day event this year, possibly Wilson's Orchard in Northampton, and would seriously recommend you support Apple Day at an event near you.

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