Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Sap is Rising

Enough beating about the bush. It's official! Spring has definitely arrived in all its 'almost Summer-y' glory. Buds are a-bursting, blossom is a-bloomin', and right on cue my nose is a-runnin'.

Bramley Seedling bud at 'Mouse Ear' stage
Spring blossom is a joy to behold, but with it comes Spring pollen... closely followed by Spring hayfever. Bah! Could this be the reason Morris Men start waving hankies around at this time of year? Coincidence? I think not!

Whatever. I'm greatly looking forward to blossom time, and this year I'll be making a special trip to our friend John's beautiful old orchard in the Cotswolds to experience the perry pear and cider apple trees in full bloom. Expect some eye-popping orchard-porn on here very soon.

Meanwhile, I have to content myself with some bought-in orchard loveliness in the form of a new book, 'For the Love of an Orchard' (Anova Books, £25). Described by authors Jane McMorland Hunter & Chris Kelly as 'Everybody's guide to growing & cooking orchard fruit', it's a delightful book to dip into, and full of the sort of images we've come to expect where orchards are concerned. Is it possible to take a bad picture of an orchard I wonder!

This is no textbook, but neither is it merely a coffee-table tome. There are certainly better books available for the nuts and bolts of orchard planning and planting, but that's not what this is about. It's an inspirational book, with just enough hard facts and advice to set the suitably inspired potential orchardist on the right road to creating their own bit of orchard heaven. For me, I love the little snippets of fruity prose, such as this one from Geoffrey Grigson's Aphrodite (translated by A.L Loyd) on the lusty Quince fruit:
It is yellow in colour, as if it wore a daffodil tunic, and it smells like musk, a penetrating smell.

It has the perfume of a loved women and the same hardness of heart, but it has the colour of the impassioned and scrawny lover.

Its pallor is borrowed from my pallor, its smell is my sweatheart's breath.

When it stood fragrant on the bough and the leaves had woven for it a covering of brocade, I gently put up my hand to pluck it and to set it like a cencer in the middle of my room.

It had a cloak of ash-coloured down hovering over its smooth golden body, and when it lay naked in my hand, with nothing more than its daffodil-coloured shift, it made me think of her I cannot mention, and I feared the ardour of my breath would shrivel it in my fingers.
Yep, that's Quince for you. There are similarly earthy descriptions of Medlars, PlumsApples, Pears, Cherries and Mulberries. I'm going to need a bigger garden...

As yet I've only dipped into this book, and needless to say, being largely non-technical in nature, there are likely to be a few errors. In a classic bit of reverse logic, the authors make the assertion that 'Perry is fizzier than cider...', presumably because it was frequently marketed as a Champagne substitute. Perry is certainly not inherantly 'fizzy', unless of course you make it that way...

It's a good book though, and I can attest to it's effectiveness by the fact I'm now wistfully searching the garden for space to plant a Quince tree... and a Medlar...

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