It’s early December and apart from a few Malus Rosehip, an edible crab-apple, and Malus Jumbo, the apple harvest is in and has been sold, eaten, or dehydrated and stored for consumption at Christmas and the New Year. Malus Rose hip becomes edible in about mid-October. Although still a little tart, it improves as it stays on the tree when the sugar levels are still rising. Although it is only four bites and it’s gone, it acts like an incredibly refreshing sorbet between your main course and dessert.
The Jumbo is primarily a cooker but as it hangs on the tree into early winter, the sugar levels here too rise enough for it to become an eater, giving it a dual purpose status. Normally harvested at the end of August/beginning of September, the apples don’t keep very well. The main reason for harvesting at this time is that in the past, due to the size of the fruit, I had two fully laden trees just break off at the base and I lost both of them. I did take a risk this year and refrained from picking too early, but after the initial pick of thirty or so, I was eating them, or I would pick 14 at a time and put them through a Excalibur dehydrator. It’s a great way to store the fruit and in removing the water it concentrates the sugar content which made them unusually sweet. I know they must be sweet as they passed the special test which is offer them to friends and acquaintances to see whether they go back unprompted for seconds, and they all have done so far. Leaving the fruit on the tree seemed to be the best way to keep them over a prolonged period.
Early in the harvesting period, it’s worth walking around your trees regularly to see which fruit has started to drop before picking time, to avoid picking early. I find it is far easier to ripen the fruit on the tree than off the tree, and it also avoids having too many to handle at one time.
I have observed that unripe fruit picked early seldom ripens as well as it does on a tree. For fruit with really short, thick stalks, a quarter of one turn is my test. If they break within that quarter turn, they are ripe, but if they don’t. I leave them for another 7 to 10 days or so.
Two of my favourite late cropping eating apples are Herefordshire russet and Cornish Mother. The Russet is pretty familiar to most of us so let me dwell on the Cornish Mother. It is usually the second or third week in November before they come good and have a tang like an old fashioned pear drop sweet. They truly are delicious with their red skin. The cut surface of the fruit holds its colour well which makes it good for fruit salads.
Lord Lambourne and Bramley 20, both cookers, processed well through the dehydrator in November too.
Enjoy your forest gardening.