Apples, Pears & so much more ...
A thriving orchard with many special varieties of fruit is a fabulous fresh source of ingredients for any restaurant. Many of us do not realize there are literally thousands of apple varieties available, you could eat a different variety of apple every day for six years. Not so long ago, enticing local varieties for different dishes and uses were passed down from generation to generation with the bride taking bud wood from her family’s orchard to her new home with her. But sadly that has all changed. In recent times - since 1945 a shocking 95% of our orchards have been ripped out and now our supermarkets supply a meager range of predictable varieties often shipped in from far flung places. The new orchard we are planting at Thyme, which will have a wide range of connoisseur’s varieties, will tempt people to try something deliciously different!
This extensive new orchard will be planted around the outer edge of the large stone yard bordering the parkland edge. Apart from being productive, we also think orchards can be highly attractive and a great draw for wildlife. Instead of close mown grass under the trees we will sow wild flower meadows between the trees which will be dissected with mown grass paths. The trees we have chosen are grown on larger rootstocks than the very dwarf ones often used in commercial orchards today, which although it does make them slightly more difficult to tend, means they will be more fitting in this beautiful traditional setting.
Choosing the varieties has been heavily led by culinary preferences. Daryll Taylor, Thyme’s Culinary Director, has included some highly unusual and delicious treats. Plants such as the Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia) which produces sweet blue/black berries about 12mm in diameter after the ‘bee magnet’ white flowers in April, is on order. These berries make a tasty jelly. A wide range of Medlars will be planted. These fruit are often under rated but in Iran the markets are heaving with them in autumn and they are highly prized in Persian cooking. Warm, perfectly ripe pears from the tree are exquisite. Daryl has selected some crème de la crème varieties such as ‘Merton Pride’, ‘Onwards’ and ‘Williams Bon Chretien’.
Apples are essential in any orchard. Their blossom laden boughs in spring attract bees and are full of promise. ‘Tickled Pink’ has unusual deep, solid red crimson blossom and is dual purpose - both culinary and edible and has red flesh. ‘Herefordshire Russett’ has won awards for flavour, while ‘Broadholme Beauty’, is an excellent sweet cooker which was bred in Lincolnshire, a nod to Caryn Hibbert’s Lincolnshire family farm. While the popular “Blenheim Orange’ is a local favourite. All these and more will form the backbone of the orchard.
An inclusive range of fruit which also includes plums, gages, cherries, damsons, quinces and more, we hope to be in the ground this autumn and establishing over the next few years. Mostly they are to be planted as small feathered trees which settle in faster than bigger trees and the more unusual varieties are only available at a smaller size. We will have to desist from letting the fruit form in the first year to help the trees put their energy into forming good strong specimens as opposed to fruiting. After this they can be harvested, minimal crops initially but after four years or so as they increase in size and stature we should get good harvests. Pears, they say, are ‘planted for heirs’ but even if we wait a little longer for these they are definitely worth it!