Most of the apples in our small orchard were ready for picking in September or early October. The Ashmead’s Kernel have been hanging on to their twigs, refusing to let go, until today. The recommended way of testing whether an apple is ready for picking is to lift it gently to see whether it comes loose. That works for early varieties which you eat straight from the tree, and stops you picking them too soon, but I’m not sure it’s reliable for the late keepers. Last month I kept testing the Sunset to check whether they were ready and then woke one morning, after a night of wind and rain, to find they’d all dropped from the tree.
As Ashmead’s Kernel is a good keeper, I didn’t want to risk them falling and getting bruised. So today, when a few fruit came away easily in my hand, I decided to pick them all. This old variety, dating from the 1700s, is not a good looking apple. The greenish skin is overlaid with patches of russet and occasional tinges of polished orange. Straight from the tree the fruit are hard and starchy but by New Year they’ll be crisp and richly aromatic with a sweet and complicated flavour that is often likened to pears. They’re worth waiting for!