Start of the Fruit Picking Season

"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad" - Miles Kington 

Photo 1: Glen Ample Raspberries picked on 29th June 2023

In the kitchen garden, July is the start of the fruit-picking season. Strawberries are available in June but I'm not a serious strawberry grower - the constant battle against birds, slugs, woodlice, etc just doesn't seem to be worth the effort. And raspberries are a far superior fruit anyway.

On the last day of June, I did a tour of the garden to check the status of this year's fruit crop (see here for my 2022 tour).

Raspberries - I replaced older, less productive raspberry varieties (Sugana and Polka) in 2022, so 2023 is effectively the first proper cropping year. I chose Glen Prosen, Glen Ample and Autumn Bliss to provide lots of delicious fruit from late June to Autumn. The Sugana raspberries were grubbed out after eight or so good productive years; however, after a very poor year in 2021, the Polka raspberries appear to have returned with a good deal of vigorous growth so they are getting a second chance!

Gooseberries - I just grow dessert varieties now - Whinham's Industry and Langley Gage (?) - after my culinary gooseberry gave up the ghost 3-4 years ago. Yields are lower with the dessert varieties but the fruit is sweeter. At this time of the year, I will pop into the kitchen garden before breakfast and pick a dozen or so ripe fruit to add to my morning muesli; no sugar required.

Photo 2: Whinham's Industry Gooseberry (30/6/23)

Mary made a gooseberry crumble last week - although the gooseberries retain their sharp taste there was no need to sweeten with sugar. The gooseberries will be picked over the next couple of weeks.

* The reason for the "?" against Langley Gage is because the fruit (Photo 3) appears to be the wrong colour - it should be green/yellow and not red. I have made enquiries to the nursery that supplied the bush and await their response.

Photo 3: Langley Gage Gooseberry (alleged)

Blackcurrants - I have quite a few varieties, some old enough for me to have forgotten their names but probably with a first name of Ben! The fruit is ready for picking now - fruit size seems smaller this year so maybe a reduced crop?

Photo 4: Blackcurrants (unknown variety) on June 30th, 2023

Cherries - No pictures this year as the birds have eaten the lot. Although there were plenty of flowers in mid-April, the fruit set was poor and what fruits did ripen were polished off by the birds. The tree needs some serious pruning this year to improve its shape and productivity and to enable easier crop protection from the birds.

Photo 5: Stella Cherry (15th April 2023)

Redcurrants - These have ripened nicely in the week since I took the photo below and are now ready for picking. We use to have three bushes but lost two of them to honey fungus. I will need to be quick though as the blackbirds are already tucking in (see here and here). I can virtually guarantee I will disturb either or both of Mr & Mrs Blackbird everytime I visit the kitchen garden! 

Photo 5: Redcurrant (unknown variety) - 30th June 2023

Apples - Excluding crab apples there are eight apple varieties in our small town garden. Some are more bountiful than others. Six of the apple varieties are grown a Supercolumns. Four have produced no fruit this year, one (Gala Mist) has produced two apples (Photo 6) and the other, Red Windsor, has about 50 set fruit though these will need to be thinned out in the next week (Photo 7).

Photo 6: Gala Mist

Photo 7: Red Windsor

Rev W Wilks fruits biennially (every other year) and 2023 is a fruiting year ...

Photo 8: Rev W Wilks

The tree is groaning under the weight of apples and I have had to support one of the branches with a piece of black plastic downpipe (Photo 9)

Photo 9: Heavily-laden Rev W Wilks

Finally, apple-wise, that leaves the oldest tree in the garden - a stunted Golden Delicious tree purchased around 20 years ago from a local garden centre. Mary had wanted to do a Wassail and that requires an apple tree. So I walked 2 miles to the nearest garden centre (then known as Wyevale), bought a 5-6 foot Golden Delicious apple tree in a pot, and returned home by bus. It was a very successful Wassail with neighbours and friends; thanks for asking.

This year's crop looks promising ...

Photo 10: Golden Delicious

Pears - I cannot remember exactly when we planted the two pear trees; Comice and Concorde. It was fairly soon after we arrived so I'm guessing they are both nearly 20 years old. They were bought as a pair to aid cross-fertilization and grown as espaliers. Tastewise, the Comice is slightly better but its yields are much much lower. If you have room for only one pear tree in your garden, go for Concorde - great taste, very productive and stores well. 

Photo 11: Comice

Photo 12: Concorde

Grapes - We have two grapes - white and black! Last year was a bit of a disaster as the hot dry weather did them no favours at all. Climate change is likely to have a significant effect on viniculture. This year, however, looks more promising at this stage of the season ...

Photo 13: Start of the Grape Harvest

Rhubarb - My original rhubarb - Arrow F1 - was especially vigorous but wore itself out after 10-12 years of extreme productivity. I replaced it in Autumn 2021 with a couple of Livingstone rhubarb crowns. These have been a bit slow to get established but are now ready to harvestvalbeit sparingly this year.

Photo 14: Livingstone Rhubarb Plants

Medlar - Having seen medlar trees at the National Trust's Brockhampton Estate, and been given a few to try at home, I decided to buy Mary her very own. I chose the Nottingham variety and it has proven a worthwhile choice. The medlar fruit is a little unusual as it has to 'rot' a little on the tree (blet) before it is edible. We use our fruit to make medlar tart and medlar jelly.

Photo 15: Nottingham Medlar

Blueberry - I really need to spend a little time getting the three blueberry bushes sorted because they were a present from Mary (there used to be four but that's another story). My problem is that I find blueberries somewhat bland and tasteless and I'm not sure all the extra care (they prefer an acidic soil) is woth the effort. Confirming this lacklustre attitude, the photo below (Photo 16) is out-of-focus but I cannot be bothered to go and take a better one!!

Photo 16: Bluberry

Blackberry - We have a thornless blackberry growing along a north-facing wall at the rear of our garden. It is easy to look after and produces a decent crop of good-sized sweet berries. These will be ready later in the year ...

Photo 17: Thornless Blackberry

Plum - Finally, we come to the three plum trees all of different varieties. These trees have not flowered since they were planted in the Autumn of 2018; i.e. 5 flowering seasons. Plums generally take longer the apple and pears to get established but I'm starting to wonder if they will ever produce fruit. Plums should be pruned in summer (July-August) so I have made sure this is done on time this year.

Photo 18: Plums before summer pruning

Photo 19: Plums after pruning

Mary and I hope to enjoy the fruits of our labours ...


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