Riverford Wicked Leeks

english apple season

Going back a generation or two, when most of the farms in our parish were owned by the Church of England, it was said that the cider would pay the rent. Each farm was surrounded by orchards and would have it's own mill, press and cellars for storing and maturing the cider. Every now and then some one will still knock on our door and recount their time as a GI or Land Girl when cider could be bought from Mr Hoar, the previous tenant.

Before the war cider was popular and, as a cash crop, helped farmers in this parish to survive the depression of the thirties in relative prosperity. After the war cider fell from favour and the presses and orchards started to fall into disrepair. By the time my father took on the tenancy in the fifties, there were only two working presses left in the village. As children we used to make our pocket money by collecting apples and delivering them to these remaining presses where sour smelling, foul mouthed men in leather aprons would amuse themselves by plying us with last years cider whilst the apples were tipped from hessian sacks and disappeared up a conveyor into the mill.

The orchards, which once covered a third of the farm have been slowly grubbed out. Recently, just as the remains of the industry was going through the last of its death throws, there has been a bit of a revival locally. My brother-in-law of Luscombe Cider bought the last press in the village when it was finally ripped out, to make way for more barn conversions, and has developed a thriving business, through juices, ginger beer and lemonade which are now much more important than cider. We have replanted some of the orchards on the farm using a mixture or heritage and more modern varieties. Devon is mainly known for cider apples rather than desert fruit because the damp climate makes the less hardy desert apple trees susceptible to a range of fungal diseases.

The English apple season is now well under way. Most of our apples will come from Jerry Saunders at Dawlish and David Pardoe in Herefordshire. This month will be mainly Lambournes, Spartans and George Ross before we get into the coxes at the end of the month. The better keeping Russet, Kids Organge and Red Pippin should keep us in English apples well into the new year.

Apple pressing.

For several years my father has operated a small press at the farm on Satrudays through late September and October where local people can bring in their apples and help press them. This deal is that half the juice is left as a pressing fee and then gets sold to raise money for OXFAM. He normally manages to raise over