Organised by the London Orchard Project, the London Orchard Festival was a day to celebrate apple growing in London. On Sunday 7 October 2012, Laura Porter & her daughter and went along to Camley Street Natural Park in King's Cross to see what was in store. She came away with a variety of activities you may also find of fun for Halloween parties or children's parties.
On Sunday there were activities for families and advice workshops for London gardeners and more ways to enjoy apples than I could ever have imagined.
The London Orchard Project don't grow apple trees themselves but they help Londoners plant and harvest their own apples, particularly in community garden projects.
100+ Apple Varieties on Display
There was a really impressive array of apples to see and taste, supplied by RHS Wisley and the National Fruit Collection. Yes, I didn't know we had one of those either.
Two of the apple varieties tasted like bananas. The Ard Cairn Russet apple was probably more like a banana than the Winter Banana apple. With both of them, while you eat it the texture in your mouth says it's an apple so you're not sure then when you stop the taste left in your mouth is of bananas!
The London Glider and East Dulwich Cider Collective were there to offer cider tasting which went down a treat, especially while waiting for the traditional outdoor pizza ovens to get hot.
The kids were also helping with making apple juice which involved an 'apple smashing' stage – big bucket with apples in and a pole with a heavy weight on the end then let the kids do the work! The smashed apples were then pressed and smashed again before being pressed to make delicious apple juice for all to try. Although the juice was being made for cider making there was plenty available and my daughter kept telling everyone how it actually tasted of apples, which says a lot for shop bought cartons of juice, eh? They were using a mixture of cooking apples and other apples that were donated as cider made with just cooking apples can be too sharp and a blend will produce a better taste in six months.
Longest Peel Competitions
I'm immensely tempted to buy an apple peeler and corer as we went back to try the longest apple peel competition many times. A simple but fun activity and I reckon we should have it all children's parties from now on! Our longest peel was 85in (as the lengths were so long it was better to work in inches for the team running the competition) and we soon discovered the largest apple did not necessarily produce the longest peel. Nor did the age of the competitor help as most adults did it too quickly and small children were surprisingly patient and steady while turning the handle and the longest lengths were produced by under 5 year olds.
My daughter was persuaded to visit the London Orchard Festival as soon as I mentioned apple bobbing. As I waited for my dripping wet daughter to catch another yet apple in her teeth other parents suggested a bucket in the garden full of water and apples was all we'd need from now on to keep the kids amused at home. I suspect they'd be right.
Make a Bird Feeder
Yet another brilliant idea for apples; particularly those that are a little bruised and not so appealing to eat. Make a hole right through an apple with a chopstick and thread a length of string through. Tie a small stick on one end as a stopper and as somewhere for the birds to stand while feeding. Push sunflower seeds into the apple – all over so it looks spiky – and then tie the string to a tree. Simple but appreciated.
We also decorated a plant pot and planted chives to encourage bees and pollination, and listened to live acoustic music including a string quartet.
As Camley Street Natural Park is all about the preservation of London wildlife and education they regularly offer children the chance to do pond dipping and had a pond life count going on throughout the day. The majority of what we saw were midge larvae and shrimps but some of the kids got snails and more exciting things. My daughter explained to the other kids, "It has nothing to do with apples but it's a nature thing and it's fun."
Traditional pizza was being cooked in outdoor ovens but when we returned the queues were long so I didn't get to try them. I also missed out on the apple pizza which I presume would have been like this recipe. I did get to try some of the apple cakes and our favourite was the cinnamon and sultana cup cake.
Name a New Apple for London
A new variety of apple has been created and in December 2012 will be planted in orchards in public spaces, parks and schools across London. This is the first new variety in London in 70 years.
A new variety is created by grafting two varieties together so the 'parents' of this new apple are the Pixie and Laxton Fortune apples. Both were chosen as they are easy for beginners to grow and resistant to many diseases, plus they taste very sweet.
Visitors to the London Orchard Festival could offer name suggestions and the winner will receive one of the first trees of the original batch of 100 that have been developed. More suggestions are welcome so tweet your ideas to @LondonOrchard and follow them for the announcement of the winning name.
There are more apple events in London this month but the one I'd recommend is October Plenty on Sunday 21 October at Bankside.
Visit our collection at Great British Chefs, for some delicious apple recipes from some of Britain's greatest chefs.