Thursday, 18 February 2010

Stored sunshine

Another day of really awful weather, but I feel immeasurably cheered by the stored sunshine on my kitchen shelves. Erik wrote that that the food year is like a battery, charging up in summer. This is some of that energy I stored up last summer: a peach preserve, which is so very welcome when I need reminding of warmth.

Erik remarked that the return he got from his trees was enormous, compared with the effort and yield from his veggie plot. My little fruit trees at home haven’t got to that point yet, but once I have put them into much bigger pots they should do very well. (My pic shows some of my apricots with bought peaches and nectarines.) I’ve got an apricot, a quince, two pear trees, three old-fashioned apples. One is the famous Norfolk Biffin, which was grown specifically to store right through to the end of Spring. I’ve never seen one, much less tasted one, so it’s exciting to look forward to that.

I’d love to hear more about the heritage project that Charlotte and Tom are involved in at Catton Grove, planting forgotten sorts of local apple. They’re helping to restore Norwich to its former glory; Tom was saying the there used to be lots of fruiting cherry trees all along the Avenues. Norwich was described in the 1660s as ‘a city in an orchard or an orchard in a city, so equally are houses and trees blended in it’. Everywhere there must have been fruit and nut trees, in people’s gardens and hedges, in the streets and in public open spaces. Wouldn’t it be great to plant again, in open spaces that are wasteland or where car parks are no longer needed? There was a great programme (again!) on Radio 4 – The New Diggers, where people in Todmorden, Yorkshire, are doing just that.

A first-rate nursery locally where I buy most of my fruit trees – and hazels – and soft fruit too is Read’s Nursery midway between Norwich and Beccles. I have no commercial interests in them, trust me! I like going there because they have a wonderful collection of trees that they raise themselves; and for those with a sheltered spot for exotica, they hold the national collections of citrus fruit and figs. They are also very knowledgeable about local varieties of fruit. There’s also the best online nursery that I have come across: Keeper’s Nursery, who sent me very good trees too. They have a huge collection of heritage trees and lots of valuable advice about pollination times, whether the trees are hardy, how well they crop and whether the fruit is delicious enough to be worth the effort.

Today’s books: the first is very good for advice on growing fruit, and veggies too. It’s out of print but you can track down second-hand copies: Anna Pavord’s New Kitchen Garden.

The second book is never out of print! Probably the most battered cookery book in my collection, much splattered: Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book. Not only does she provide comprehensive advice on what to buy, how to cook it and what varieties to plant; it’s also a fascinating read. One of my Top Ten cookery books.

Pix: peach preserve; summer fruit

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