/ Food & Drink

What are you doing with your excess garden-grown fruit?


A fine spring when apple trees were in blossom and insects were busy pollinating, followed by plenty of rain to help the fruit swell has led to a bumper harvest this year. And don’t I know it.

I have a fairly old apple tree at the bottom of my garden that’s groaning with apples. So many, in fact, that I’m a little overwhelmed.

Many of the fruits have already fallen from the tree before I’ve had a chance to get the ladder out to pick them. And while I’ve cooked up a few of the less bruised ones for apple sauce, there are only so many bags of pureed fruit that will fit in my freezer. Besides, I still have tons of the stuff from last year.

I also have a clutch of raspberry canes and two damson trees, and these also produced a glut of fruit. I managed to keep up with the raspberries and eat them before they went bad, but, to my shame, many of the damsons went to waste.

Fruit case

Of course, I could go all Women’s Institute and start baking crumbles and tarts, and making jam to give away at Christmas, but no one seemed to appreciate my efforts when I did that a few years ago.

In years past, I’ve given away half my harvest to friends and family, and I’ll be doing that again this year. I’m also contemplating putting a box of them out on the street for passers-by to help themselves, but fear this may attract foxes – or worse, rats.

So what’s one to do?

Apparently, in California, where a colleague grew up, the neighbours all get together and exchange fruit, but that would actually only exasperate my problem.

Another colleague’s friend has taken his apples to a farm on the Buckinghamshire/Oxfordshire border that offers a juicing service where the fruits are pressed, pasteurised and bottled. The pulp is then fed to the farm’s sheep and local cattle.

It also offers to press apples, without pasteurising the juice, into a fermentation vessel for customers to brew their own cider at home.

Being something of a cider drinker, this naturally piqued my interest. Looking for a similar scheme in London, I’ve found one where I can donate my apples and get 50% of the juice or cider that’s made from them. And I don’t even have to risk blowing up my house in the brewing process.

Cheers to that.

Have you had a bumper fruit crop this year? What are you doing with your harvest?


It has been a good year for apples, hasn’t it? We pick ours and either make apple sauce in small quantities or basically do what your friend has. The two things you should never do is leave them on the trees (they drop and attract all sorts of beasties) or put them out on the pavements. If you do that, they ferment naturally and before long the now unemployed worker wasps appear in droves.

We only have one tiny apple tree now and that has not fruited, but at our previous house we had a mature Cox’s Orange Pippin apple tree that was laden with apples and we used to store them in a cool corner of the the summerhouse. They lasted for several months and it is quite easy to do. Each apple should be wrapped in newspaper [which will stop any that go bad from affecting the rest] and they should be put in trays or baskets. A basement, garage or outhouse would be a better storage place than a wooden structure but it worked for us. Why pay good money in December to buy apples that someone else has stored? It is possible to keep hard apples for a few weeks in the chill drawer in the fridge.

We have a small plum tree which produced a marvellous crop this year – not a large number but superb quality. We caught them just at the right moment when they came away from the stem very easily, the stalk came out of the fruit without pulling, and the stone was free of the flesh. There was no wasp attack or decay on any of them and they had the best taste I can remember for many years. Only a couple of kilos of fruit but every one a winner. Certainly the climatic conditions have been excellent this year.

Although it is grown under industrial conditions beyond its natural seasonal norms, I have found that UK fruit in the supermarkets has been better this year and far superior to imported produce. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries have been good and the later crops from Scotland have been sweeter than usual, and nice gooseberries and greengages were also plentiful, but plums were a little disappointing with Victoria’s on the small side and Marjorie’s lacking in flavour. I don’t think the commercial picking and storing arrangements suit them well, and supermarkets still struggle to present fruit at its optimum condition despite saying it is ‘ripe and ready to eat’. M&S go the extra mile but Waitrose, despite its reputation, is only a bit above average in offering top class fruit.

Independent greengrocers [if there are any left] and farm shops are better places to buy, but the number of local produce markets where retailers could select their stock have declined massively with the march of the supermarkets who pre-order on contracts direct from the growers. I fear that as a nation we have lost touch with the true taste of many of the fruits for which we were renowned. To grow your own is well worth the effort in my opinion.

Our apple tree has also been incredibly productive with over three full trugs carted away to the heap, I am considering apple vinegar next year, The freezer is full and we have also the 1000 plus cherry tomatoes roasted, dehydrated, and simply frozen and occupying space.

The plums were wonderful, the pears OK, the figs a failure so far, and the cherries abundant. We have been looking at purpose built dehydrators as using the ovens is not totally successful as we think they are not allowing moisture to escape.


From 2003 but also read the comments

There has been a bumper crop of fruit this year. I generally clear the apples off the grass (otherwise it is difficult to cut) and pile them at the bottom of the garden. Wildlife gradually disposes of the surplus. I’m happy to support birds, foxes, insects and anything else that lives – it is just as much theirs as mine.

The birds continue to enjoy my apples and I enjoy watching them. It saves filling the bird feeders.

Coincidentally, a friend turned up with a bag of surplus apples, saying that this has been a good year.

I regularly see boxes of eggs and honesty boxes, but when driving through a village yesterday I saw a basket of apples marked ‘Help yourself’, and there was another one in the same street. When I was working, colleagues would bring in surplus produce and put it in the coffee room.