10 November 2016


Early Root House,
empty shelves, empty root-crop-bins,
former Glossop orchard,
Shaw Island, San Juan Archipelago, WA.
"The problem of where to store our apples is now a perennial one, for the stables and hay and apple lofts were converted 35 years ago into retirement house for my father and mother-in-law; now this same building is my own home. Time and generations move swiftly on. When we came to live at Barnsley House, there were three large and prolific cooking-apple trees in the garden, all of the different varieties and keeping qualities. They lasted the winter through. The ritual of picking and storing went on for days, supervised by my father-in-law using child labor-our sons. Everyone enjoyed it, with much friendly calling of instructions––'Can't you see that large red one by your right hand?'––and to-ing and froing of large log baskets filled to the brim and taken gently on wheelbarrows. Picking was always more exciting than storing, which after a while became tedious. One full apple tray was stacked upon another, leaving enough space between each fruit for air circulation around the ripening apples. With careful management, they lasted well into March, and throughout the winter stewed apples or huge baked ones were a regular part of our daily fare. On Sundays it would be something more exotic; Apple Betty, crumble, pie or dumplings. Then two of the old apple trees died, one from old age and the other from honey fungus. The third was hard pruned and in spite of its age still bears quantities of the pale yellow fruit of a quality hard to beat; when baked they become lighter and more feathery than any souffle. We planted new apple trees to replace the old, some as potential standards with spreading heads, others as neatly trained affairs growing on dwarf stock. There is a Bramley and a Charles Ross, two Cox's, three Sunsets and two Tydeman's Late Orange. Who, I wondered, as I laid them gently on a tray, was Tydeman or Charles Ross? As the trees grow so does the harvest and this year we have had a bumper crop which we have thoroughly enjoyed picking and storing. All the Laxton's Fortune were eaten in October and even earlier, their juiciness enjoyed by all. The Cox's are awaiting their ripening later. The huge Bramleys and Charles Ross will be eaten after Christmas. Each apple has been laid carefully on slatted trays in a spare bedroom, the floor surrounding them alive with mousetraps. A heavy pungent aroma hangs about the room while the apples are giving off their gases. In 1618 William Lawson's advice was as relevant as it is today. 'For keeping, lay them in a dry loft, on heaps, ten or fourteen days, that they may sweat. Then dry them with a soft and cleane cloath and lay them thin abroad. Long keeping fruit would be turned once a month softly."
From: A Countrywoman's Year by an internationally known author, gardener, lecturer, Rosemary Verey. Little, Brown and Company. 1989.