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Dutch Morello cherry in blossom

Dutch Morello cherry in blossom

I planted a morello cherry (free standing) on the top corner of my front lawn, in Spring of this year (2014). There are now quite a few straggly ‘branches’, which I am tempted to cut back but I’m sure this is not what I should do. I believe this tree should not be pruned for the first year or so. Also what is the best way to enrich to soil around it over winter. Advice please.

Sandra Bury

Last autumn we bought two apples trees – Red Falstaff and James Grieve – and one pear tree – Concorde – and they have not thrived this year. All had blossom and fruit, most of which we removed because of the weight on the branches, but all three have had diseases and grown in a distorted way. The apples grew tall lanky branches and have suffered from leaf miner, losing most of their leaves early, while the pear had pear mite/midge and the leaves went curly. I know apples need to be pruned in winter, and the lanky branches need to be reduced, but we also need to be sure that all three trees make a better start next year. They are growing quite close to a fence, and there seems to be a mass of wood lice around which eat the pumpkins, but may not have anything to do with the trees. The Red Falstaff is trying valiantly and had had two bouquets of blossom this autumn as well as in the spring.

Linda Le Merle

Cherry Juice and Gout?

Sweetheart Cherry

Sweetheart Cherry

I read in The Times a letter, which said that cherry juice cured gout. There are quite a few articles on the web, but no research trials that I located. Expensive – ultimate anti-toxicant ?

Does anyone do serious research on all these wonder fruits?

I think that marketing has led to blueberries taking over from black currants, which to my mind are much nicer and need to be rediscovered.

Helen Self

Codling moth damage

Codling moth damage

I have a plague of codling moths on a biblical scale. Does anyone else have the same problem?

I think the reason is that in my orchard I did not put out the pheromone traps until early July – a month or more later than usual – and this coupled with the early season has meant they were ineffective. Although in a normal year there may be only two or three male moths in each trap all season.

So where have all these moths come from, bearing in mind that there was little damage last year. During this summer the prevailing winds have been in the south east or east south east, this is very unusual; the prevailing winds are normally in the south west. My theory is they have come over from the continent on the prevailing winds.

The espalier apples have come off the worst, the fruit being more exposed, in particular Mère de Ménage and A. W. Barnes. Over half the crop has been lost already and there are still more to drop off.

The season is a strange one, which has affected the pears as well. Yet it was pretty similar to last year, in that little happened before July, a blistering July then again little happened. I noted last year that Conference and Concorde stopped growing in very early September, while normally they would keep on growing to about the end of September, especially last year as the season was very late. This year Beth, Clapp’s Favorite and Marguerite Marillat stopped growing at the very beginning of August despite watering, in fact the watering was a waste of money. Beth just sat there for a month getting nice and golden and the Clapps’ got more colorful – were they responding to just one real month of pear growing weather. July 2013 and July 2014 were only good for the sun worshippers in my opinion and very little help to gardeners.

Adrian Baggaley

Margueriete Marillat pears

Marguerite Marillat pears

Photographs kindly supplied by Adrian Baggaley

Pruning my Raspberries?

I have a newish raspberry patch in its first season of full vigour which has six different varieties. For several of the varieties, the new canes have grown to nearly eight feet high.

I’ve tied them in but should I cut them off now at five or six feet or leave them as they are?

Janet Galpin

Coating cherries with chocolate

Coating cherries with chocolate

Cherries dipped in chocolate are a wonderful way to impress your dinner guests or give as a present to someone: they are simply delicious. To make these pretty dainties you will need: large, dark cherries with the stalks intact, washed and dried. I used the variety Hertford, home grown of course. This is a richly flavoured cherry, large and meaty with plenty of flesh making it ideally suited for this purpose. Kordia would be another good cherry to try.

The other ingredient is dark chocolate, melted in a small basin over a saucepan of hot water. A 200 gms bar will yield sufficient for well over 40 chocolate coated cherries. In my experience ‘cooking’ chocolate does not work, you need the best eating quality.

To successfully coat the cherries, you must devise a means of suspending each cherry by its stalk whilst the chocolate sets. I used my oval plastic hanger with pegs that usually holds socks, etc., on washday! Perhaps, a taunt string stretched between kitchen unit handles might work or a wire coat hanger and clothes pegs. But before you begin, remember to lay some greaseproof paper underneath to catch any drips.

The next step is to suspend the cherries, that is, attach them to the clothes pegs, then partially immerse each cherry, one by one, in the liquid chocolate by lifting the bowl of liquid chocolate up to the fruit and allow them to set. When they are ready, take great care dismantling them from their drying device and unpegging the cherries. Finally store in a box, or display and enjoy them! They will keep well in the fridge and are best served straight from the fridge.

Christine Baggaley

Photograph kindly supplied by Christine and Adrian Baggaley

Kordia cherry

Kordia cherry

Gorgeous English home grown cherries are on sale in shops and farmers’ outlets in Kent, yet my local Kent supermarket is selling Spanish cherries. I may just have been unlucky, but with the enormous effort and investment in English cherry orchards these days, I could not help wonder why a large major supermarket did not seem to have home grown cherries prominently on sale. The cherry season in the UK begins with imported fruit, but now that the English crop is ready and picking has been going on for the past two weeks or so, surely English cherries should be widely available, albeit at a price?

That morning, I visited a farm less than twenty miles away where the cherry harvest was in full swing on the most up-to-the-mark plantations, producing almost unimaginable crops – at best, from six to eight tons a hectare of top quality fruit. Last year the English cherry industry grew 2,000 tons of cherries. The crop will probably be higher this year and more new cherry orchards have gone in. These modern fruit farms are massive enterprises, immensely impressive and where cherry production, like that of strawberries and raspberries, has undergone a revolution over the past few decades.

Gone are the tall cherry trees that needed sixty run ladders to reach the top and pick them. Instead, dwarfed trees, about ten feet high, are grown under covered tunnels, protected from bad weather and birds to ensure bountiful harvests of pristine fruit. This revival in the English cherry orchard’s fortunes is also due to new cherry varieties, which tend to be larger and more succulent than many of the old sorts. Although cherry aficionados will tell you that there are real treats to be found among the old varieties, by and large the new ones are much more generous in size and many also taste excellent.

Kordia, a large, true black cherry with a rich, glorious flavour, is widely planted in commercial orchards and one that should be on sale and recognised, now that supermarkets are naming the cherries in a punnet. Penny is a beautiful, very large dark red cherry also being harvested around this time and, almost uniquely in the portfolia of recommended modern cherries, bred in England. Summer Sun is another wonderful, large, dark red cherry. You will also find on sale Regina, a nearly black cherry, which, like all these varieties, is handsome and fleshy. Sweetheart is the last of all to ripen and another good, deep red cherry.

Over the season Stella and Lapins may appear in markets. These are varieties popular also with gardeners because they are self fertile, but most cherries require another variety to pollinate them to produce a good crop of fruit. The complexities of cherry pollination are a taxing issue for growers, only satisfied by planting a range of varieties. Yet this is of great benefit to consumers, because it means we have a wide spectrum of cherries potentially available to us.

Cherries are one of the most glorious fruits and with the English cherry industry putting increasing amounts onto the market in response to the demand for more home grown fruit in general, we need to make sure they are reaching us. It seems an open question as to how widely available home-grown cherries may be, but it would be interesting to find out.

Tell us what you discover on sale. Let us know if these wonderful cherries are getting out to customers all over the UK. Do you see Kent cherries and any other English cherries on sale, for example, in Leeds or Liverpool, Exeter or Scotland? In your area there may still be orchards of old varieties – it would be fascinating to know about them too.

Joan Morgan

Sweetheart cherries

Sweetheart cherries

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