Country enterprise: growing fruit and vines for grapes and wine
Apples for cider; pears for perry and grapes for wine
Fruit trees in an orchard
Orchard & Vineyard>
Too many apples
Not only grapes!
Nothing can be more pleasant on a warm summer's day than to be
able to sit in a fine orchard, a hive of bees gently murmuring in the
distance, a few sheep contentedly cropping the short grass.
In the dappled light you can daydream of all the things you intend to be
busily doing — next year. In sad reality in most of the orchards
today you may well be run over if not asphyxiated by a rampant
Producing apples and pears for sale can be a
frustrating experience. Despite continual movements by our own
apple-growers the continental varieties fill our shops. Their uniformity
of size and colour means that the customer knows exactly
what he is purchasing and, of course, the advertising that backs up
the product is superb. Many different varieties are being produced
to compete and large sums of money are being spent by brave
growers on the presentation of their products. All this really seems
to show is that anyone thinking about trying to make money from
apples and pears either needs great capital resources or needs their
But it need not be either of these. To start planting vast orchards
is certainly a nerve-racking venture. So what about the older
orchards in existence?
A few apple trees at the end of a garden
will, in a good year, produce more apples than you can count.
have just had such a glut year. The country lanes have been full of
fallen-down boxes outside neat cottage gates. The waterlogged sign
on the heap of apples it once contained tells its own tale of plenty
— 'apples for free: please take'. But in such a year of glut hardly
anybody does. Our trees have produced mountains of apples and
we have had a very hard struggle to keep up with them.
produced tons of jelly and gallons of cider and wine. The jelly is
now mostly sold and the cider and wine are maturing nicely. These
are after all traditional products from the orchard. As are the
sheep we fattened. They grazed on the windfalls and were fat by
late September. We brought pailfuls of windfalls to the pigs and
the chickens have scampered about — they like the apple seeds.
There were times when the sheep were clearly overfaced with
plenty. They started taking tiny bites from one apple before
passing on to the next; the season slowed up though and they
went back and cleared the hitherto neglected ones. Apple chutney,
with added redcurrants left from jelly-making, was also produced
in quantity. Next year there may well be a bad season and we will
long for some of this year's crop. The few boxes of cookers that
we have stored should last our own consumption for most of the
winter. We did in fact try to sell some really beautiful cookers
early in the season only to be told that there was no market at all.
That is the whole story of country enterprise — if you cannot sell
it as it is, convert it into something that does sell.
Less romantic than the orchard but equally desirable is a vineyard.
In recent years vineyards have started sprouting up again in Britain.
The Romans happily cultivated grapes in Britain not many years
after Julius Caesar invaded us. Their growth prospered and became
by tradition a part of the wealth of many monasteries. With Henry
VIII's activities in that quarter, many vineyards fell into disrepair
and viruses attacked the vines.
In the nineteenth century it became
popular among the landed gentry to grow grapes under glass.
These were for family consumption and for impressing dinner
guests. Great sums of money were spent on suitable glasshouses
and gardeners' lives were dedicated to producing the finest and
most succulent grapes.
There were various necessities according to
gardeners of the day. Whole bullocks were buried (dead ones,
fortunately) under the vines to provide nourishment. If the carcass
was not buried deeply enough, it often destroyed the vine. If it
was planted deeply enough, it probably did no more good than a
less horrifying application of bonemeal.
There is an imaginary line drawn from Pembroke to the Wash
and if you live south of it, you can grow vines on south-facing
If you live to the north of it, you require the additional
shelter of a wall. In exposed areas the grapes will only ripen under
glass. Grapes should be planted between October and March. The
most successful transplants are usually one-year-old ones. The
vines require staking and a top dressing of compost. The variety
you choose should be governed first by the weather in your area
and second by the type of grapes you wish to produce.
soils you may well need to drain, using broken rubble or some-
thing similar. If you are fortunate enough to have an established
vineyard in your area, you may be able to go on a tour of it. Here
you can gather all sorts of valuable information. The varieties
used, how they are trained, the work in progress on them and so
Often vineyards sell young vines as part of their business; if the
plants are growing well in your area, at least any questions about
suitable hardiness are answered. Vineyards often use plastic
netting as wind-breaks and for protection from frost. If you can
keep an eye on a professional producer it makes your first few
Most grapes grown in the open end up as wine.
You may wish
to make the wine yourself or you may prefer to have it made for
you. In our area there is one large producer who makes almost all
the local wine. The grapes are harvested at the respective vineyards,
transported, turned into wine and then returned to the
vineyards where the wine is sold, directly and through retail outlets,
as the produce of that vineyard.
The problem with this kind
of manufacture seems to be that as most of the grapes are of the
same variety and the method of production is similar, the only
possible major factor influencing the flavour is the soil itself.
Although this certainly does produce variations it would be nice to
have some other differences due to different manufacturers.
Grapes do still grow under glass today. We have a vine, some
eighteen foot wide and very aged. We did not plant it ourselves
and so cannot say with truth if it ever had a bullock planted to
nourish it. However, it does do its own thing pretty well and with
only a little care, produced well over a hundred pounds of grapes
To construct the size of greenhouse this vine needs
today would be uneconomical. It certainly is delightful to be able
to pick great bunches of delicious dessert grapes. We pickled some
of them in vinegar with mustard and sold them as an accompaniment
to Christmas ham.
There is another slightly hidden crop
from our grapevine. There are many more leaves produced than
the vine needs. These make delicious dolmades, stuffed with rice,
tomatoes, garlic and meat if you like. They also make a delicious
addition to a salad or they can be cooked in a tomato-flavoured
casserole with a large squeeze of lemon juice.