Three years ago I decided to make my own apple press, to take advantage of two giant ‘James Grieve’ apple trees, the most reliable cropper’s in the garden. This year, however, I admitted defeat, realising that my dream would never become reality and decided to buy a small press, instead. Although there are some wonderful cider varieties, any type can be used to make cider, though sweeter apples are better for juice. It’s a fantastic use of ‘windfall’s’ through the season or for early varieties that don’t store, enlisting the help of a friend of mine Neil, who has a great enthusiasm for British traditions we decided to give it a try. Using a bucket and electric drill, with a metal bladed attachment, the apples were pulverised, then placed in the press, where every last drop of juice was squeezed from the pulp. Initial despondence with the lack of juice faded, with each turn of the handle and we eventually managed to express a gallon of juice. We now know that slicing apples is too time consuming and that we should invest in a ‘scratter’ that chops the apples roughly, in the future. Although many people suggested that a 5 litre press was too small, if there was a constant supply of pulp, so it was always in use, a surprisingly large volume could be pressed in one day. Inspired by the Organiclea Project, (www.organiclea.org.uk) who collect apples from gardens around Walthamstow, I’m hoping to start collecting apples, for pressing, in our village – why don’t you try it too?
A small brown box left by my front door revealed two plump cloves of garlic, ‘Christo’, ready for planting. Garlic can be planted any time until the end of October and beyond in milder areas, in an open sunny site on free draining soil, so the roots establish before the onset of cooler weather. The ground was forked over to break up lumps of soil, then raked level before planting 6” apart with 6” between the rows, with the tips just below soil level. It has been dry for the last month, they’ll be well watered, until the next rainfall. I also have garlic ‘Ilico’ and ‘Jolimont’ to try, so it will be interesting to see how they compare at harvest time next July.
The foliage of squashes and pumpkins has now died back – it’s been bad for powdery mildew again this year, so make sure that all of the leaves and stems are disposed of away from the garden, removing a potential source of problems next year. The fruits need drying before storing, so raise them on tiles and turn the fruit so that all sides are ripened. Leave them in the sun for two or three weeks so the skin hardens, covering them with cloches to prevent frost damage; alternatively cut them and ripen on the greenhouse bench; ripe fruits sound hollow, when they are tapped. Then store them in a cool frost free place. Happy leaf raking! Matt