Free food

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I mentioned in a previous post that we’d got just under 15kg of lovely damsons this year from a tree in town which obligingly overhangs the footway and in which nobody else seems to take any interest at all.

Well, there’s an old apple tree on a sort of grassy no-mans-land up the lane from us, and we’ve just picked 17kg of really scrummy apples off it.  That’s way down from the 48kg it gave us last year, but we’re not complaining.  We haven’t a clue what variety they are, but they’re cookers, they’re not Bramleys, and they make very tasty apple crumbles indeed.  Best of all though, they make the finest dried apple rings ever.  Far better than using eating apples!

Picture of apples in the basket of a Workcycles FR8

In the same week as the free apples, we also harvested this year’s free walnuts from under the tree by the side of the road out of town.  Only just over 2kg this year, which sort of half-fills a supermarket plastic bag, and no, you don’t eat them straight off the tree …

Picture of walnuts as harvested

The first thing you do is scrub them in water to get the hairs off.  If you don’t do that, they rot.  Having got them wet through, you then of course need to dry them, for which the ideal equipment is an old garden chair and one of the racks out the apple store …

Picture of walnuts drying in sun

Once they’re dry, the book says you pack ’em in a mixture of salt and coconut fibre, sawdust, wood shavings or bulb fibre, then put them in your cellar and they might keep until May.  We unfortunately are cellarless, so we just put them under the stairs in an old bread crock, packed in the woodchips we use for littering the chickens.  They’re ready for eating in November, and they’re delicious!

picture of walnuts stored in woodchips

Incidentally, Elsie’s Bible of home preserving is that old Womens Institute standby “Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables” by the Min of Ag, Fish and Food, published by HMSO in 1971.  Because it’s getting a bit dog-eared, I got us a new copy from Amazon last week.  It’s the 1989 edition, which incidentally in my opinion is a very poor bit of book production indeed compared to the earlier versions, and it’s fascinating to see how some things have changed.  Storing your walnuts in the traditional manner is out.  Apparently nowadays one pickles ones walnuts instead.  Why one might want to do that, I can’t imagine.

Anyhow, that’s the free damsons in, and the free apples and the free walnuts.  I think that just leaves the free chestnuts still to go this year, but when Elsie rode past the tree last week it was still not ready.  Maybe next week …

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