Free Fruit

If you're prepared to keep your eyes open, it's surprising to find that from July to September, a lot of unusual fruit is around, growing in spinnies, hedgerows, school grounds (shut for the summer holidays) and parks. I'm not talking about elderberries, blackberries, etc, but genuine dessert fruit: cherries, plums and apples. They are all varieties you cannot buy.

Cherry trees are often heavy fruiters, especially ornamental cherries with white blossom. They carry many sorts of cherry, ranging from white to red to black, their flavours can be almost anything between that of a sweet Spanish cherry and an English morello.

These trees are favourites with County Councils and local authorities. This year I picked about 25lbs on three mornings and used them for winemaking and in fruit salads. A couple of years ago I picked 60lb in a few successive mornings for wimemaking. Here are some of the varieties I found this year:

Bought cherries are no use for wine because they are not sufficiently acidic.

Plums are also plentiful; flowering prunus (plums) are favourites in school grounds and parks and frequently the fruit just falls to the ground. Many think that the fruit is poisonous....the red-leaved "prunus" trees in private gardens will often carry a small number of red plums in hot years. Have you one of these trees? If so, look for fruit in late July.

Here are some plums I found in 2006, planted together by the Local Authority:

These were quite unlike commercial varieties. The large yellow tasted of melon, bursting with juice; the larger red was similar but like watermelon. The small red was close to a bullace and sharper, a little like a damson. The small yellow plum was drier and tasted of apricot. A week later I found some black spherical bullaces about an inch across, just outside Desford; these were obviously a sloe cross since they were sweet but bitter.

From a red-leaved "prunus" tree, a well-camoflagued fruit:

Unidentifiable apples are plentiful, too; many of the trees you see at the roadside are the result of pips. The flavour can be almost anything If you don't stop the car, you'll never know and might miss a treat.

Found growing wild near my village:

Inedible cider apple, late August. Being evaluated by a cider-maker autumn 06.

Late dual-purpose apple; early February, picked December.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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