This past weekend was Apple Weekend, which is a relatively new custom (it started 22 years ago) but one that I hope will be a firm fixture on the calendar for many years to come. For more information about it all, I have added a link to the title of this post, but basically, across England there are scores of orchards open to visitors, competitions for the longest apple peel, apple tastings and so on.
I have mentioned before the wonderful farm shop that is just a short drive from us, and as it happens, although it sells a wide variety of produce, apples are their speciality, and they grow many unusual varieties.
We parked between trees in one of the orchards, and as we got out of the car the air was scented with cooking sausages. The day was bright, with a cool breeze, but not chilly which was just perfect. The light had that early-autumn haze to it which makes everything look so beautiful. In one barn there were many of the producers of food sold in the farm shop offering tastings of their wares and a chance to meet the people behind the products. The nice thing was that they were not selling anything right there, so there was no pressure to buy, but everything was available in the farm shop, so you could go home with anything that you fell in love with. One stall had teeny ice cream cone cups, about the size of those dosing cups that come with cough mixture. The flavours on offer were toffee apple which was very sweet but delicious, and the intriguingly named Christmas. Christmas really did taste of Christmas! It had the idea of mincemeat but also a citrus mixed spice flavour mingling through too. I will be serving some of that this year during the festive season!
There were lots of things on offer for children, including peddle-powered mini tractors to race around a track and donkey rides! We got to stroke some pygmy goats, but we couldn’t spot the resident guinea pigs, as they had rather sensibly curled up in their little house. In the rent-a-tree orchard there were archery taster sessions running, so Carl and I both had a go. It was so much fun! I found it really hard to draw the string on the bow back far enough as it felt like it was going to snap and ping me in the face at any moment! I didn’t manage to pop any of the balloons that were up for target practise, but all my arrows did land on the thing we were aiming at, which was a pleasant surprise!
After that we wandered to the apple tasting barn. There was a great long trestle table laid out in an ‘L’ shape with basket after basket of different varieties of apple, and staff to cut you pieces and talk to you about the different kinds. It was a bit frustrating, because you queued at the short end of the L and worked your way along, but people behind us kept ‘just going over to have a look’ at the long side of the L and queue jumped! And queueing is supposed to be practically a national sport! The wait was worth it though, and we sampled Topaz and D’Arcy Spice and Jupiter before taking ourselves off to the farm shop to purchase some apples to take home. We chose several varieties, taking 2 of each so we can both try them.
I can’t wait for next year, when I will definitely be having a go at the longest apple peel competition!