Out of season

Sainsbury’s had no Cox’s apples. I had to buy Braeburn instead, they aren’t as nice but are better than the alternatives. I would like Russets, but the only place that seems to sell them is Marks and Spencer and doing your shopping in the M&S food hall is not something to be contemplated on a teacher’s salary.

Eating a round of cheese and pickle sandwiches, six cherry tomatoes, and an apple for lunch, I looked at the Braeburn and thought it wasn’t bad for January. I couldn’t recall there being fresh apples in winter when I was young.

My grandmother who lived on the outskirts of Yeovil had apple trees in her Nash Lane garden.

The apples were picked with great care in the autumn, none were allowed to go to waste. Windfalls were gathered to be used in cooking or in making chutney. Good apples were wiped clean and placed carefully on layers of newspaper in cardboard boxes. In a mood of boyish enthusiasm, I once wiped an apple and tossed it into a box with the ones placed there by the adults. It brought me a telling off for my silliness. It was explained that throwing the apple could have caused it to bruise and bruised apples could go mouldy and the mould could spread to other apples. Contrary to the pop song sung by the Jackson Five, one bad apple could spoil the whole bunch.

The boxes of apples were placed in the cool darkness of the attic, from where they were brought out over the course of the winter. They did not like a Cox or a Braeburn, or indeed like any other apple you might buy in a supermarket, they tasted like apples that had lost freshness, firmness and flavour from being in a cardboard box in an attic.

With supermarkets that can provide 365-day supplies of almost ever sort of fruit or vegetable, it’s hard to imagine being restricted to what was in season. Were fresh vegetables at this time of the year reduced to root crops and brassicas? I remember a lot of cabbage and turnip, and there were people who said that parsnips didn’t taste right until they had been frosted (not that I ever liked parsnips, anyway).

If we were to be more environmentally conscious, I suppose we would be content with a small selection of vegetables, but it would hard to go back to a diet of the past.

 

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