Spring grafting of fruit trees

As our forest garden develops we are always looking for ways to increase the diversity and the number of the best performing species. This will enable more of our own grown ingredients to be available for our guests in the years to come.

Fruit trees tend not to develop true to type when grown from seed. Instead they are best propagated by effectively “cloning” by grafting a piece of last years growth onto a selected rootstock. We have used this technique over the last few years to propagate more of our best apple trees and also with an interesting twist to graft pear, quince and medlar onto native hawthorn.

A first year Red Windsor apple having been grafted in March 2018 and planted direct into a nursery bed . This picture taken in the drought summer of 2018! The tree is quite happy surrounded by strawberries and currant bushes!

A first year Red Windsor apple having been grafted in March 2018 and planted direct into a nursery bed . This picture taken in the drought summer of 2018! The tree is quite happy surrounded by strawberries and currant bushes!

Grafting is essentially a simple process although success depends on following some simple rules. There are a good number of useful resources available on YouTube and most of my learning came from the excellent videos by Stephen Hayes of Fruitwise

The basic principle is to join a piece of our chosen tree (the scion wood) onto a suitable root stock. Root-stocks are inexpensive (a few pounds each) and best bought from specialist nurseries such as Ashridge or Keepers Nursery. The form of the graft depends on the relative size of the scion and the rootstock but I have mainly used cleft and rind grafts. Following the simple rules expounded by Stephen Hayes my success rate has been 80-90%.

Scion and rootstock (Apple M106 which will produce a semi vigorous tree of up to 4m in height)

Scion and rootstock (Apple M106 which will produce a semi vigorous tree of up to 4m in height)

The pictures below show some of the grafting process. This is a saddle graft and once located onto the root stock it is wrapped tightly in strips from a plastic bag (specialist grafting tape can be used!).

Satisfying to get harvests! The first apples could be expected in the third year after creating a new tree from grafting.

As large areas of our plot are left fairly wild to encourage wild flowers, trees and shrubs we get a lot of “volunteer” hawthorn. It has been interesting to use these to graft to hopefully produce productive trees in the future.

Being all part of the Rosaceae family Quince, Pear and Medlar can be grafted onto hawthorn. Our local hawthorn, Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is well adapted to our climate. This was demonstrated well through the summer of 2018 where with very little rain the hawthorn nevertheless flourished.  A successful graft gets a great start with an excellent natural root stock and as it’s already established gives the new plant a head start. The videos below show some of the process.

An apple tree pruning masterclass in Sheffield

In November 2016 I planted 15 apple trees on our plot bought from Huw Evans of Sheffield Organic Growers.  I was lucky to benefit from his advice and experience which he has built from establishing a 300 tree orchard over the last seven years.  Yesterday Huw has kind enough to drop by to show me how to carry out the all important formative pruning to ensure the trees develop into productive and healthy trees. 

Over the next few years we hope that these trees along with the other soft fruit, salads, herbs and perennial vegetables will contirbute an increasing quantity of supplies into PJ taste.

Huw accessing how to proceed with this Red Windsor apple tree.  He selected the four main branches at the top of the tree and cut these back by up to half of last seasons growth to an outward facing bud to encourage these to branch further.  The lower branches were cut back to between 4 and 6 buds to encourage them to develop as fruiting spurs.

Huw accessing how to proceed with this Red Windsor apple tree.  He selected the four main branches at the top of the tree and cut these back by up to half of last seasons growth to an outward facing bud to encourage these to branch further.  The lower branches were cut back to between 4 and 6 buds to encourage them to develop as fruiting spurs.

The trees I planted over the winter of 2016/17 are listed below.  I have added descriptions from the Orange Pippin Trees web site

Two Discovery -the definitive early-season English apple variety.

Three Red Windsor - Self-fertile, so there is no need to worry about pollination partners. It grows naturally in a neat and tidy fashion, and crops heavily. The apples can be picked over several weeks so you don't have to deal with a glut. It seems untroubled by the usual diseases of apples, and the blossom also has some resistance to frost.

Two Ribstone Pippin - A particuarly handsome apple, thought to be one of the parents of Cox's Orange Pippin. It has some of the aromatic qualities of that variety when eaten fresh, but is noticeably sharper in flavour - and for this reason is often used in the kitchen as well.
By Victorian times Ribston Pippin was very popular as a late autumn apple, and the Victorian fruit enthusiast Robert Hogg reported that it was in "greatest perfection during November and December".

Two Blemhein Orange - Blenheim Orange is a popular large English heritage apple variety, widely grown in gardens. It has the characteristic orange flush which is often associated with English apples. Although it can be eaten fresh, it is best considered a culinary apple, and it cooks to a stiff puree.

One Rajka - a modern apple variety, developed specifically to be resistant to the main apple diseases, and hence a good choice for the gardener or home orchardist who prefers an organic or un-treated regime. The fruit is deep-red coloured over a golden yellow background when ripe. The flesh is a creamy-yellow colour and is open-textured, fairly crisp but not too hard, and snaps cleanly when you bite into it. The flavour is sweet, but with good acidity.

Two Fiesta - Fiesta is a relatively new English apple, developed in Kent in the 1970s but with a very traditional English style and flavour. Cox's Orange Pippin is one of its parents, and it has inherited the classic Cox aromatic sweet/sharp flavour. Visually it also looks the part, with the attractive orange flush so typical of traditional English apples.Fiesta is one of the best apples for juicing. It produces copious amounts of juice, with a very good rich sweet / sharp flavour.It can also be used as a substitute for Cox's Orange Pippin in apple cookery - slices keep their shape when cooked.


Three Ashmead Kernel - Ashmeads Kernel is a very old traditional English russet apple. It remains popular for its distinctive pear-like flavour which is quite different from most other apple varieties.
Although often considered as a connoisseur's dessert apple, Ashmead's Kernel is actually quite versatile. It can be used for cooking, or sliced in savoury salads, and it keeps very well in a cold store.

The pictures above show Huw deciding how to proceed with the Blenheim Orange.  As you can see each tree presents a slightly different challenge depending on how it has grown through the year.  These trees are positioned quite close to a hedge and it may be that this has created a slightly lopsided growth pattern.  The video below gives some great tips from Huw and shows how he proceeded with this tree.

Huw's advice have given us lots of knowledge about pruning trees of this young age.  He also recommended a couple of books which he says he still uses regularly and cover a wide variety of specis and styles of training.

There are a number of growers from whom I would recommend buying quality trees. 

In the Sheffield area and for planting in this area you could'nt do better than to approach Huw at Sheffield Organic Growers
For a wide variety of trees and great advice on forest gardens - Martin Crawford at the Agroforestry Research Council
Cool Temperate in Nottingham also stocks an interesting range of trees

Finally here is some information from Wortley Hall Walled garden where they re-established the orchard back in 2007 and have plenty of interesting regional heritage varieties.

Edible Chrysanthemum - preserving seasonal produce #3

Edible Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum coronarium, is an easy to grow annual plant which has thrived in the garden this year.  It is a member of the Asteraceae/Daisy family and otherwise known as garland chrysanthemum or chop suy greens.  Originally from the Mediterranean the plant has spead over Asia and the American continent

Simply grown from seed in the polytunnel with successional sowings over April, May and June the seedlings were hardy and grew quickly in a variety of soils and positions once planted out.

The stems and leaves are used in stir frys and steamed as a green and if you want to encourage this kind of growth then pinching out the top growth to prevent early flowering is useful.  However, having a ready supply of flowers has been brilliant for adding colourful garnishes to our delivered and event catering and these plants willingly started to flower and have kept flowering well into the Autumn, producing the lovely yellow and white and pure yellow blooms.

Chrysanthemum tea - a simple infusion of the flowers gives a golden brew

Chrysanthemum tea - a simple infusion of the flowers gives a golden brew

To preserve the flowers for use over the winter we have been drying them and crystallising them.  The dried flowers will make a lovely golden tea and the sugared ones will give an extra month or two on the garnishing front.

Taking preservation to its logical conclusion I am now collecting the drying seed heads ready for planting next year.  I suspect that there will also be a lot of self seeding going on and it will be useful to be able to recognise the seedlings in case they start to take over large parts of the garden!

Celebrate Autumn's bounty with our special buffet menu

Featuring our own Sheffield grown food and artisan Derbyshire produce our special buffet for Autumn 2016 captures the essence of nature's bounty.
         

Sheffield Eggs - PJ taste April 2013.jpg

Menu - Cold Fork Buffet

Fresh baked courgette and cheddar quiche (PJ taste grown courgette) (V)
Platters of PJ taste Sheffield Eggs – Moss Valley pork, Hendos
Stanage Millstone Cheese – a new cheese made in Hathersage served with PJ taste baked bread and our plum chutney (Sheffield grown plums) (V)
Roasted beets, carrots and Jerusalem artichoke with a herby tahini sauce  (v)
 Potato salad with chives (PJ taste grown chives)
Selection of PJ taste Sheffield rhubarb Bakewell and bowl of Hazelhurst organic heritage apples (Sheffield grown)

Free delivery for orders of 10 or more people in Sheffield please book on   0330 043 1954 or ask@pjtaste.co.uk

Some Customer feedback:
We would like to say a massive thank you to everyone involved in our event on Friday, the day was a huge success and we have received some very positive comments throughout the practice. Your excellent communication prior to the event and the attention to detail we received was military perfection which did not go unnoticed.
Sally Hutchinson, Senior Office Manager, Purcell July 2016

I would like to say a massive thank you from myself and all at Wake Smith.  Your service and food has been excellent and it has been a pleasure working with you. 
Bridie Mulgrew, Marketing Executive, Wake Smith Solicitors.  May 2016

I wanted to write to thank you for the wonderful catering at our event last Friday.   Not only was the quality of the food and drink exemplary but your accommodating and calm approach was very much appreciated by myself and colleagues. 
Alan Dick, Head of Policy, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

 

Garden Report - Edible Flower Special

Edible flowers are blooming in the garden following the ground work reported in my last garden up-date.  Its great that we have been able to raise all these from seed, despite a late start this year.  This is with the exception of the wild flowers which are being foraged from within the garden.  In the pictures below this is represented by the Rose Bay Willowherb with everything else cultivated.

We are enjoying using these as interesting and colourful garnishes for our food with them enhancing daily buffet deliveries and our wedding catering.  However, we have quickly found that at the peak of the season we are producing far more flowers than we can use so are now supplying to the Urban Pantry in Crookes, Sheffield.  In addition we are preserving through drying Marigold petals, crystallising borage and looking to make Rose Bay Willowherb syrup.

A Wedding Cake of Cheese (supplied by Reece at  Urban Pantry ) decorated with hop (dwarf variety Prima Donna), Marigold ,Viola, Nasturium, Borage and foraged Meadowsweet

A Wedding Cake of Cheese (supplied by Reece at Urban Pantry) decorated with hop (dwarf variety Prima Donna), Marigold ,Viola, Nasturium, Borage and foraged Meadowsweet

Here is a bit more detail about some of the flowers we are growing along with there uses:

Marigold - Calendula Officinalis

Otherwise known as Pot Marigold or the Common Marigold the stunning bright orange or yellow petals can be removed and scattered through salads, rice, cous cous, or to finish cupcakes. The petals can also be simmered in milk and used as a saffron substitute.

 

Viola

Flowers have a lettuce-like flavour and make a decorative addition to a green salad or to garnish a pâté or dessert. They can be crystallised and used on cakes, cookies or creamy desserts.

Nasturium

Nasturtium flowers are available from June until the first frost, growing in a beautiful range of colours from acid yellows, through oranges, to deep reds and multi colour. Nasturtium flowers have a distinctive sweet peppery taste when fresh. They can be eaten whole or petals stripped and strewn over salads, risottos, and are also very good fried in a crispy tempura batter.

Malope Trifida

These white Vulcan flowers have been grown from the seed of plants raised in 2014.

Borage

One of the very best known edible flowers, borage is a classic, blue or white star-shaped flower with a mild cucumber taste. An essential addition to a jug of Pimms, they work perfectly with all refreshing summer drinks, puddings and salads and are strong enough to hold their shape when refrigerated. N.B. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid borage flowers, as more than eight to ten flowers can cause milk to flow. They can also have a diuretic effect, so should not be eaten in great quantity.

Shungiku

Yellow and white petals of the edible chrysantheum with a slight peppery after taste, beautiful strewn across both sweet and savoury dishes.


 

Disclaimer: PJ taste has researched the food safety aspects of all the edible flowers which we offer. However, individuals consuming the flowers or derivatives which can be made from them do so entirely at their own risk. There can be dangers for people who are pregnant, suffer from aliments such as hay fever, asthma or severe allergies or other health issues in case of doubt please consult your doctor.

Have we found the Holly Grail - a healthy cake?

Earlier in the year we started growing some Stevia plants - Stevia is allegedly 100 times sweeter than sugar and we felt that being able to contribute to our sugar demands locally was another step to sustainability

So heres how we progressed and potentially found the answer to the age old dilemma of cake lovers everywhere - "can I justify another slice?".  Now you can as its a health food!

Stevia plants - the years growth

Stevia plants - the years growth

Worrying out potential frosts we recently decided to harvest our stevia plants and dry the leaves to make a powder we could use as a substitute sweetener.

We took a few cuttings first in the hope that we can propogate new plants which will survive the winter and provide next years crop.  There is a simple video with a good tip on using ziplock bags by Growing Herbs here.

After washing the leaves RE DRIED IN THE DEHYDRATOR

After washing the leaves RE DRIED IN THE DEHYDRATOR

After washing well the leaves went into our dehydrator and it was a simple task over the next 4 hours to achieve a fully dried product.  In the absence of a dehydrator an oven on the lowest setting with the door ajar could also do the trick or possibly a handy shelf above a radiator could come into play. 

The final part of ther process was grinding the leaves to a fine powder in a small coffee/spice grinder.  The overall yield was rather dissapointing but on tasting we realised that it is indeed very, very sweet.  The literature suggests that the Stevia powder in this form is 50-100 times sweeter than sugar.

aFTER DRYING AND GRINDING THIS IS THE YEARS CROP!! nOTE TO SELF NEED MORE LAND FOR GROWING

aFTER DRYING AND GRINDING THIS IS THE YEARS CROP!! nOTE TO SELF NEED MORE LAND FOR GROWING

Tasting the finished Stevia was an interesting experince - no more than a few grains gave a sweet kick but also a definite flavour which is not apparent in refined sugar.  So what to do with it.  A look on-line lead us to this recipe which we have adapted slightly.  We loved the taste of the finished cake - not sweet so reminiscent of a very dark chocolate given some interesting textiure from the chocolate chunks.  And light in texture too.  An interesting variation would be to separate the eggs, whipping the whites before folding in for a mousse or souffled texture.

Chocolate Brownie Cake - is this the Holly Grail of the Healthy Cake?

2 teaspoons stevia powder   
1 1/2 cup flour   
3/4 c cocoa powder   
1/2 teaspoon salt   
1/2 teaspoon baking soda   
1 cup margarine   
4 eggs   
2 teaspoons vanilla   
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks  

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease lightly 13x9" baking tin. Stir together the stevia, flour, cocoa, soda, and salt and set aside. Mix the melted butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add flour mixture and stir until moistened. Fold in chocolate chunks. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.

 

The finished cake - having eaten a few slices!

The finished cake - having eaten a few slices!

  

Apologies to my allotment

Apologies to my allotment

Late summer into Autumn is such a time of wild food riches that my poor allotment suffers a certain neglect.  Sure I still fly down but only for a quick harvesting raid – deprive the bees of some borage flowers, pick courgettes and if lucky some courgette flowers.  Perhaps gather some blackberries from the path on the way down, and grab some elderberries from the old gnarled tree in the allotment corner, pluck some onions and pull some of the seemingly perpetual rhubarb stems.

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