In an autumn dominated by worries of shortages, cutbacks, and the prospect of a return to austerity, there is one good news story abundantly ripe for the picking.
The weather during the 2022 growing season has been exceptional for apples, resulting in a bumper crop across the Westcountry and beyond.
According to Barrie Gibson of Fowey Valley Cider in Lostwithiel, the crop is both the largest for several years and of excellent quality thanks to just the right amount of sun and rain, and the warm temperatures which extended throughout September.
However, in such high-yielding years, gardeners, smallholders and community orchards are left with a surplus of apples, with many forced to watch perfectly good fruit rot away because they simply have so much, they don’t know what to do with it.
Barrie’s award-winning cider business has several practical pieces of advice to reduce this waste of a great British crop, while saving money and increasing self-sufficiency.
He explains: “Here at Fowey Valley we’ve had lots of requests from people who are inundated with fruit and don’t want it to go to waste. In response, we are offering to swap bottles of cider for bags of apples – every 15kg of apples can be swapped for a bottle of our Castledore cider.”
He continued: “Obviously, this is a great for us as often people have wonderful, traditional cider apple varieties growing in their back gardens. However, it also puts a glut of fruit to good use, reduces waste and helps make a local business more sustainable. Not to mention the delicious cider you get in return!”
Barrie, who founded Fowey Valley Cidery in 2012, will only take apples from trees which haven’t been sprayed with chemical pest control agents; all apples are washed at the cidery twice before being pressed.
Barrie has some important advice when harvesting apples to make sure the fruit is undamaged: “Never pull apples off the tree or even twist them off the tree. If the apples don’t fall off the tree after a gentle shake of the branch, they aren’t ripe. Unripe apples which stay stubbornly on the tree consist mainly of starch rather than the sugar that’s so important to a good-tasting apple.”
Barrie and his team are also running courses for those who want to learn to make their own cider at home.
In just one afternoon it’s possible to learn a way of making cider using whole fruit juicers so you don’t have to invest in expensive equipment; you’ll go home with a gallon of juice to ferment, with everything provided to turn it into your very own handcrafted Westcountry cider.
Fowey Valley HQ on the Restormel Estate in Lostwithiel is open from 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. More details on cider making courses can be found on the website, www.foweyvalleycider.co.uk, and anyone with any questions about supplying apples can contact Barrie on email@example.com