Sharecroppers

Big Apple Take-Away 23 October 2016 - Copyright Susie Walker  Big Apple Take-Away 23 October 2016 - Copyright Susie Walker

OCVA certicate 2017In May 2017, Charlbury Sharecroppers' received the 2017 OCVA Environmental Award from the Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action organisation at Oxford Town Hall. This is county-wide recognition that what we are doing in Charlbury is a really good model for other communities to follow. If your community has an Apple Day near the end of October which is a juicing frenzy, then read these links and think again, then read about how Charlbury Sharecroppers deal with the local apple harvest - yes, there is another way to deal with your apples
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01/10/14 - How fruit drinks are causing tooth decay in toddlersJuice drinks aimed at infants are simply not necessary and only contribute to children developing a sweet tooth.

17/01/14 - How fruit juice went from health food to junk food For decades fruit juice has been seen as a healthy option. Then this week a primary school banned it after claims that it's as bad for you as Coca-Cola. But how big a health risk does it pose?

20/05/12 - Dentists' warning on smoothies and juices: popular drinks more acidic than vinegar Health-conscious parents are "misguidedly" letting their children's teeth rot by giving them too many fruit smoothies and juice drinks, senior dentists have warned.

Big Apple Take-Away 23 October 2016 - Copyright Susie WalkerAnd they say people don't want apples . . .

that's what they say in other communities, but it's definitely not true in Charlbury! Enormous thanks to everyone who offers their surplus fruit for picking and redistribution every year rather than see it wasted. We pick fruit from within an 8 mile radius from Charlbury - if you would like your surplus fruit to be savoured rather than wasted, please phone 01608 811057 or email sharecroppers@charlburygreenhub.org.uk.  In 2016 our list of apple varieties reached over 60!

  • In August and early September, about 250lb of plums, greengages and damsons are picked and given away.
  • From September through to the end of November, about 2 tonnes of picked apples and pears are given away at six Big Apple Take-Aways on the Playing Close, as well as quince, medlars and grapes - well over 100 people come each time and clear everything there! People discover their favourite varieties through the season and come back the next year for more.
  • Picking is done using long-handled picking baskets which are telescopic and can reach up to 4m. Apples are stored in a corner of a garage using cardboard fruit boxes from the local supermarket, these stack up easily and don't take much room.
  • Apples are picked when they are ripe but how can you tell? Knowing what variety the apple is really helps, but even if you don't know, then wait until the apples start to drop a lot - not just the small and rotten ones. When ripe the apples will break off easily when you twist them gently, the pips will be brown and the apples will taste good without the taste of unripe starchiness. Trees can be picked over several weeks, the apples at the top of the tree and facing south will ripen first; trees in more sheltered gardens will also ripen before those same varieties in more exposed positions. This means that the same variety can be picked and available over several weeks. Apples will get larger the longer they stay on the tree, so pick big apples first and leave the smaller apples to get bigger over the next two weeks. If it is hard to pick the apples using the long-handled picking basket that tells you the apples aren't ready yet, however, picking some varieties early by hand extends the season and usefulness, e.g., early James Grieves are good for cooking.
  • People take apples for eating fresh, cooking, storing as whole apples or freezing cooked. Early apple varieties don't store well and need eating or cooking straight away but varieties that ripen in October will store for several months, keep them in the salad draw in your fridge or in a cold garage - perforated plastic bags are good to stop russets shrivelling. Once you know what apple variety you have, then you will be able to find out how long you can store them.
  • Apples are classified as eaters, cookers and some dual purpose, but it isn't that simple. Basically, eat raw anything you enjoy raw - the large Howgate Wonder looks like a cooker but is lovely and sweet and is great eaten raw (share it with the family) but loses its flavour when cooked, and a Bramley stored until March can then be sweet enough to enjoy raw. Different recipes call for different types of apples: Tarte Tatin need the apples to keep their shape - so do what the French do and use strong flavoured eaters like Reinette du Canada or Cox's Orange Pippin; whereas apple sauce needs the apples to collapse to a fluff - so use a Bramley; apple crumble and apple chutney are both good with a mixture of eaters and cookers to get some texture. For inspiration about apples and lots of recipes for savoury dishes as well as puddings, then Common Ground's The Apple Source Book is highly recommended. This classic published in 2007, has recipes from well-known chefs who recommend apple varieties with particular cooking qualities specifically for each recipe.

  • Prior to pressing for cider, the windfall apples get pulped using a centrifugal mill, a few apples go a long way - 201b apples produce 1 gallon juice/cider, this equipment is a local resouce which gets lent out to other groups. We only juice windfall apples for fermenting into cider, IF we were to juice apples for drinking fresh they would have to have been picked and be "good enough for eating", SO we'd rather EAT THEM.
  • Poor quality windfalls and residue pulp go to local farm animals, particularly pigs - traditionally this was the way to convert apples (and food scraps) into pork, apples from the garden were easily fed to the household pig.
  • Late windfalls apples are also given to people to feed the birds during the winter - as the temperature drops they keep well - and the blackbirds, thrushes, redwings and fieldfares love them.
  • For help in identifying apple varieties then Rosie Sanders' The Apple Book can't be beaten, from the brilliant watercolours to the more in depth key features for each variety. The online site FruitID is also very useful for a wide range of photographs. Wait until the apple is ripe and ready to pick before trying to identify it, then all the key chacteristics will fall into place - when they are overripe the colours can change and many apples look similar.
  • 15/10/16 - Golden oldies: how we saved our heritage apples Once they fruited again Jardine took to visiting horticultural shows across the country with a basket of fruit tucked under her arm in an attempt to name them. She also took scion wood from locally endangered trees and grafted them on to rootstocks in order to preserve them.
  • 09/10/16 - RADIO: Food Programme: The Apple: How British a Fruit? (28 mins) As apple fairs and celebrations are held all around the country, Sheila Dillon travels to an orchard in Devon for a conversation with drinks writer Pete Brown, who has just written a book about his two-year journey into all things apple: 'The Apple Orchard'. Sheila and Pete are joined at Otter Farm by its owner - food grower and writer Mark Diacono. From the Hoary Morning to the Bramley's Seedling to the Old Somerset Russet, from Kazakhstan to Paganism to the Garden of Eden - this is a celebration of a fruit with an incredible story to tell and with a unique place both in Britain, and the world.
  • 16/09/06 - Good enough to eat Genuinely tasty apples are hard to find in supermarkets - but not if you eat apples from our gardens. George Monbiot picks his favourite varieties.

Big Apple Take-Away 25th September 2016, copyright Roy ScottBig Apple Take-Aways are held in Charlbury on the Playing Close at 2.30pm fortnightly starting the second Sunday afternoon in September and continuing every other Sunday afternoon through October and November - so if you live locally then please do come along for lovely local fresh fruit - and it's all free. A huge thank you to all the fruit tree owners who offer us their spare fruit - this amazingly successful venture wouldn't be possible without your generousity.

"I've started eating and cooking with apples again after years of not being interested in them based on the fruit available in multi-bags (even organic) from supermarkets.  Thank you for providing this wonderful community service." Karen, November 2017

Charlbury Sharecroppers have been doing this since 2008. Fruit is highly dependent on the weather at blossom time, late frosts and hailstorms can damage the blossom and cold rain can deter flying pollinating insects. So some years are "good" or "bad" for plums, pears or apples, and a single event can wipe out a particular variety locally. In 2014 there was a late frost on 3 May and there were hardly any Worcesters or Bramleys around Charlbury, in 2013 a heavy hailstorm knocked off all the Bramley blossom. As the trees get older, some varieties start to produce apples every other year, the local Bismarck trees are highly productive but have become biennial (and in synch!) so we last had Bismarck apples in 2015 and will have them again this year 2017. Locally, 2017 is proving to be a great year for apples, pears and plums.

Big Apple Take-Away 23 October 2016 - Copyright Susie WalkerOur virtual community orchard (approx 8 miles radius around Charlbury) includes these 65 apple varieties (listed in order of season for eating at their best, and information about their recorded origins). We have access to trees in a range of places, small gardens attached to houses and pubs as well as larger orchards - an old Victorian orchard where we are still trying to identify the varieties as well as a modern orchard planted up with old varieties (mostly with labels) sourced from Brogdale (home of the National Fruit Collection).  Fast forward a few years to the cropping of the new orchard at Southill Solar and we'll be able to enjoy more of some of our favourites, discover another 24, AND widen the palate of Sharecroppes Gold cider with the 11 varieties of cider apples planted. . . . . So wherever you live, hunt around and talk to people about old trees, who knows what apple varieties might you find on your own local patch?

Pear varieties include:

Plum varieties include:

Big Apple Take-Away 23 October 2016 - Copyright Christine Elliott Big Apple Take-Away 23 October 2016 - Copyright Christine Elliott

1st Big Apple Take-Away on Sunday 10th September 2017:
Eaters (7):
  Discovery, James Grieve, Katy, Laxton's Fortune, Merton Charm, Merton Worcester, Worcester Permain
Cookers (4): 
Bramley's Seedling, Gloria Mundi, Grenadier, Lord Derby

2nd Big Apple Take-Away on Sunday 24th September 2017:
Eaters (8):
Cox's Pomona, Ellison's Orange, James Grieve, Laxton's Fortune, Merton Worcester, St Edmund's Pippin, Sunset, Worcester Permain
Cookers (11):
Bismarck, Bramley's Seedling, Cox's Pomona, Flower of KentGloria Mundi, Golden Noble, Grenadier, Keswick Codlin, Lord Derby , Lord Stradbroke, Reverend W Wilks

3rd Big Apple Take-Away Sunday 8th October 2017:
Eaters (19):
Blenheim OrangeBrownlee's Russet, Charles Ross, Cox's Orange Pippin, Cox's Pomona, Egremont Russet, Ellison's Orange, Gascoyne's Scarlet, Golden Delicious, Greensleeves, Howgate Wonder, Lord Lambourne, Mother, Orleans Reinette, Reverend W Wilks, Spartan, St Edmund's Pippin, Sunset, Suntan
Cookers (12):
 Bismarck, Blenheim Orange, Bramley's Seedling, Crimson Bramley, Charles Ross, Cox's Pomona, Flower of Kent, Gascoyne's Scarlet, Lord Derby, Lord Stradbroke, Newton Wonder, Reverend W Wilks

4th Big Apple Take-Away Sunday 22nd October 2017:
Eaters (10):
Ashmead's Kernel, Belle de Boskoop, Blenheim Orange, D'Arcy Spice, Golden Delicious, Greensleeves, Howgate Wonder, Merton Worcester, Reinette du Canada, Spartan
Cookers (10): Belle de Boskoop, Bismarck, Blenheim Orange, Bramley's Seedling, Crimson Bramley, Calville Blanc d'Hiver, Flower of Kent, Lord Stradbroke, Newton Wonder, Reverend W Wilks

5th Big Apple Take-Away Sunday 5th November 2017:
Eaters (10): 
Golden Delicious, Golden Knob, Greensleeves, Idared, Jonagold, Royal Gala, Royal Russet/Leather Coat/Reinette Grise du Canada, Spartan, Sturmer Pippin, Winston
Cookers (8):
Bismarck, Bramley's Seedling, Broad-Eyed Pippin, Crimson Bramley, Calville Blanc d'Hiver, Golden Noble, Lord Derby, Newton Wonder

6th Big Apple Take-Away Sunday 19th November 2017: CANCELLED due to early ripening this season and high winds. The following varieties were available this time last year:
Eaters (12): Cox's Orange Pippin, Golden Delicious, GreensleevesIdaredJonagold, Reinette du Canada, Ribston PippinRoyal Gala, Royal Russet, Sturmer Pippin, Tydeman's Late Orange
Cookers (7): Bramley's Seedling, Crimson Bramley, Broad-Eyed Pippin, Calville Blanc d'HiverFlower of Kent, Lord Stradbroke, Newton Wonder