Caught by the River

Richardson In Zanderland

John Richardson | 30th October 2011

‘Words on Water’ illustrator, John Richardson, has upped sticks and moved east. Here’s how he’s getting on:

Zanderland is Appleland

All over England it was Appleday on Friday (Oct 21st) and here in Zanderland we’ve truly got a surfeit of riches. After a summer that didn’t quite mature into a summer and both of us getting an absolutely horrid case of shingles things are returning to normal and the humble apple has been one of the joys of the ‘summer’ and autumn; ably backed by pears and plums.

We have enjoyed, in no particular order, Tydeman’s Early, Spartan, Cox, Queen Cox, Worcester Pearmain, James Grieve, Falstaff, Laxton, Jonagold, Discovery, Russet and Golden Delicious that taste like mother nature intended. All of them are perfect with cheese, bread and a pint of beer or cider but incredibly there are still some eating apples to mature, namely Ida Red and Michaelmas Red.

Obviously there are cooking apples too, the ubiquitous Bramley, now beginning to glow with a red blush; the supermarkets don’t like them glowing apparently preferring their Bramley’s green. Earlier in the summer we were introduced to the best cooking apple we have ever tasted called Grenadier which for us beats the Bramley for taste, texture and cookability and it also makes a truly fantastic Sage and Apple Jelly.

I mentioned that the apples have been supported by other orchard fruit and in particular plums and pears. The plum family have been a major discovery. The Victoria plum trees were so heavy with fruit that some branches were breaking and snapping, although the amount of rain on and in the trees must have helped too. The other plum varieties that we discovered were Tsar, Burbank Giant Prune, Marjorie Seedling, Laxton Early and Golden Egg. A neighbour presented us with the Golden Egg plums with the warning ‘don’t eat them raw, they’re for jam making’. That was truly a ‘wet paint do not touch’ moment. Well, I can report that they taste bloody awful but do make absolutely fantastic jam. The Laxton Early’s eat brilliantly and also make superb jam but you’ll never buy them in the shops because it is a case of pick them and eat them within a twenty-four hours, a caveat that would never sit happily with the supermarket’s logistic chains. The pears? Well the Conference, Beurre Hardy and Bartlett pears varieties have been eaten, bottled in brandy syrup, red wine and pickled too.

If you haven’t got an orchard of your own all of the apples that are currently cropping can be bought ‘at the gate’ exceptionally cheaply all over Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and a little negotiation will bring a cheaper deal for bulk buys, after all cash speaks louder than words. We’re lucky we don’t have to buy any, it’s simply a case of pick what you want, when you need it and if they are a variety from a friendly farmer’s derelict orchard take him a jar of jam, jelly, cake or pie that’s been made with his produce.
Now it’s time to pick some Golden Delicious, Spartans and Bramleys to start filling the cold store for winter and if you aren’t able to pick and store them buy rare, native British apples wherever and whenever you can.

Click here to read John’s previous letters from Zanderland

John at The Two Terriers Press