Being a city girl most of my life means that I am used to getting food supplies from modern, clean air-conditioned supermarkets. Fresh vegetables and fruits are duly washed with no traces of soil or any signs of defects on the surface. They are aesthetically arranged on the display racks; some supermarkets even spray a fine water mist on these vegetables and fruits to make them look better, less wilted.
Even when I do occasionally venture into an open market, I would be greeted with blemished-free produce; the unfortunate bruised or misshapen ones are hidden from the sight of the shoppers.
Ergo, you can imagine my disappointment when I see that the apples that fall from the apple tree in my garden are not as pretty as those of Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith or Pink Lady that are commonly sold in the supermarkets.
Apple Cakes, Apple Jam, Apple Tarts...Gone
When I saw the apple tree during our first house visit at the end February, I was thinking about all the homemade apple cakes, apple jam, apple tarts…I could make. When we visited the house a few months later, before we moved in, I was thinking how lucky I was as the tree was heavily laden with apple trees. Some of branches seemed even to be on the verge of breaking under the weight of the numerous apples that they were carrying.
My Poor Sick Apple Tree
Hélas, life is not always smooth…
After moving into the house, I discovered that I have inherited an apple tree that is sick. Based on my internet research, it seems that the apple tree has been struck by two common diseases that are caused by fungi.
Apple Scab is a common disease caused by fungus (Venturia inaequalis) which leads to brownish or blackish blotches on the fruits and leaves. Apples that are infected often become deformed as the blotches restrict the expansion of the apples as the latter enlarge. Sometimes, the apples will crack, resulting in fruit rot. If the disease is not too serious, the apples can still be eaten after cutting off the skin as the apple quality is not affected.
Brown Rot is also another disease caused by fungus (Monilinia fructigena) which produces light-ochre pustules on the apple surface, often appearing in concentric circles. The diseased apple, which is inedible, will either fall or remain hanging on the tree in mummified state. The disease spreads easier to fruits that are already wounded (e.g. by birds or the crack caused by Apple Scab).
It’s no wonder my poor apple tree is cursed by these two afflictions at the same time!
Apples Savage Operation
The former owner of the house told us that the apple harvest is normally around Saint Toussaint (All Saints’ Day), which is in November. However, comes harvest time, I do not think there will be any apples left.
The apples have been falling from the tree since August. Most of the fallen apples are small and unripe; almost all of them are affected by Apple Scab while the rest by Brown Rot. I would pick up like 5 to 10 apples daily—you can imagine how many apples I have to throw away.
I have tried savaging some of the apples that seem less affected by the Apple Scab and managed to put aside a batch of seemingly less disease-affected apples (around 10). With them, I will try my first homegrown and homebaked apple cake.
The ingredients for the cake are flour, baking powder, eggs, butter, sugar, rum, vanilla essence, salt and of course apples.
The recipe calls for 2 apples. Unfortunately, the quality of my first batch of apples was so bad that I had to cut open all the apples before I could scrape enough apples bits together to what it seemed as 2 ‘normal’ apples. After cutting up the apples, I found that a few of these them were totally rotten and had to be thrown away. Then, there were others that got bits that looked suspicious which I had to carve them out. Only a couple were were fully intact on the inside (other than the Apple Scab on the skin).
Despite the dodginess of my sick apples, the apple cake turned out to be a success. Silviu and I liked it so much that it was demolished within two days. I suspect that the combination of butter (lots), sugar (lots) and rum (lots) had a key role to play in the success of the cake!