There are many beautiful areas we hold close to our heart here at Home Farm, but one magical area (which might have been standing the longest) is the ancient apple orchard, which was planted in the mid 1700s.
QUICKE'S APPLE ORCHARD
Bound by the old red brick wall, the apple trees stand twisted and low, proudly bearing their fruit for all to see. We have over eleven varieties growing in the Quicke's Orchard; we have spotted everything from Discovery, Bramleys (cooking apple), Sunsets, Spartans, Beauty of Bath, Raritan, Grenadier (cooking apple), Winston, Adams Pearmain, Early Victoria and Hydemans Early.
Employees and the family used to pick the apples for their own use, but later, flagons of cider would have been used as a currency to pay the farmers who worked here. As we stand in the orchards today, we wonder how many apple ceremonies and orchard celebrations our ancestors held on this very ground, around these very trees.
WORKING IN HARMONY
Come October, the sun is on its journey into the depths of winter. The riotous growth of summer lies in ruins, the earthy and rich aroma of plant decay adding richness to the olfactory world. Late apples are still on the tree; we now harvest as many as we can for our local apple juice and cider maker, Sandford Orchards.
Once they've done their magic, they give the crushed apple pomace back in return to feed the cows in winter. We love that we can help each other, and nature, in this seasonal exchange. We don’t quite manage to harvest all the apples, and the orchards have a sharp cider aroma to them come the end of October. Cattle eating pomace or grazing in orchards take on a bold, chilled and jovial attitude, a bit like walking into a cider pub in the old days. They love the sweet taste of Devon apples just as much as we do.
THE IMPORTANCE OF APPLE ORCHARDS TODAY
Local traditions such as wassailing and Franklin’s Night still celebrate the importance of our apple orchards today, blessing and singing to the fruit trees in the hope of a bountiful harvest in the autumn. Apple day in October sees many communities put the glut of good apples to good use. People from all across the village or parish bring buckets of apples from gardens, farms, allotments and orchards, ready to make them into a community cider or apple juice - something that everyone has helped create.
More and more we want to know about the traceability and the story of our food. Where it has come from. Who has grown it. Apple day gathers communities together to engage with the humble apple, identify different fruit varieties, taste different varieties and different ciders, as well as juice their own apples. People brought together by fruit.
Buttered apples are a quick, easy and delicious way of using up the bountiful supply of apples at this time of year. Bramleys don't work too well for this recipe as they turn to mush, but most other apple varieties will be perfect.
1. Peel, core and slice the apples into wedges, then fry in Quicke's Unsalted Cows' Whey Butter until brown.
2. Add sugar and cinnamon and cook for a few minutes.
3. Remove the apple slices from the pan and tip in a glass of cider - we like to use Sandford Orchards' Devon Mist.
4. Simmer, stirring, then stir in double cream and a little more butter. Pour over the apples and serve.