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Gardening with Gael - Forbidden fruit now highly recommended

Apple trees flourish throughout the hedge-rows along the side of the railway lines to New York from my son’s home in Southport .

“Look,” I said to Val who was trying to doze, “there’s apple trees all along this track.”

“Good,” said Val.

At the station where we boarded the train ap-ple trees thrive around the platform. It really is as if Johnny Appleseed had been about broadcasting the seeds. In fact he never did, instead he planted nurseries of apple trees, built fences around them to protect them and left them to the locals.

There was a particularly large tree laden with fruit on the side of the road by the station, the apples dropping all over the pavement and rolling down into the ditch-es. I was really interested in taking some home to try. Val looked horrified, a sentiment reinforced by Nick when I tipped them on to the bench and a multitude of insects scurried out. For those brave enough to try them [me] they were delicious. Tasty, juicy and crisp.

The early settlers shared fruit stock and va-rieties. Benji and Laura of Forgotten Fruits Nursery have lists of local apples on their website, old varieties that we remember from childhood – Gravenstein, bramley, winesap, sturmer pippin and northern spy.

Benji suggests that when buying apple trees try to consider the time of ripening to spread the apples throughout the season so some are ready early, mid-season and late. I know Jo Rob-erts has an apple tree grafted with three varieties that fruit at different times which she tell me is doing well, two of them maybe better than the third.

Cess, at the Saturday market has a wealth of information about the distribution of apple trees from the early settlers throughout New Zealand. He mentioned in particular the Waitaki Valley where kids on their way to school have spread the seeds. He has over 80 varieties, including some resistant to black spot, including some Granny, Tydemans late Orange, late Cox’s Orange, Fryberg and Irish Peach. He also has a beautiful weeping apple that fruits called Wandin Glory which he grafts on to a large weeping frame. I think it sounds irresistible and probably so too do the possums which so far have savaged every apple tree I have tried to grow.

Cess also recommends harvesting the apple to your own particular taste. Picking too soon and the apple is a bit tart, too late it can be a bit flowery. Lo-cal varieties of Bramley, Red Chief and Red Spy have strong flavours and textures. Giant geniton are found around the gardens in the Waipu area.

Apples are one of the earliest cultivated fruit.

Carbonised remains dat-ing back to the Stone Age have been found. There are approximately 7,500 cultivars worldwide. They are used in cooking as a sweet dish or as an addi-tion to a savoury dish. My niece Emily makes a fabulous kumara and apple dish and last night I added grated apple to a pork pie. An apple a day in the lunchbox has been a tradition for all of us.
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