Saturday, October 21, 2006

Scrumpy Vol

Scrump: verb to steal apples for immediate consumption in a youthful, light-hearted manner


Today the Vol-in-Law and I headed down to one of the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens - Wisley. I have membership to the RHS, which means that I and a guest can get in free. And today was Apple Day. Well, actually it's apple long weekend as apple related festivities are being held from Friday to Monday. Apparently apple day was a big attraction and there was fierce competition for parking. The Vol-in-Law actually had to get out of the car to resolve a parking dispute and get the traffic flowing. I think it went all went ok, but he came back muttering about "johnny foreigner" and some such colourful phrases.

Wisley has an extensive apple orchard with many different varieties. Some of these were on sale by the main gate, but mostly they were selling Cox's Orange Pippin. This is available in supermarkets, but it is really nice and they were going quite cheap. We also bought Russets and Spartans - these too can sometimes be bought in grocery stores. But they also had four Cortland apples on sale, two were quite sad, one was beyond redemption - so I bought three. If you're ever in the North East (especially upstate New York) when these are being sold, buy some, eat some. They are absolutely divine. I hope they translate to South East England. When I was very young we lived in Ithaca, New York - but the memory of Cortland apples remains strong.

We bought about four pounds of apples and when we got to the check out the Vol-in-Law spied "toffee apples" - though they were something between what I would call a toffee apple and a candy apple. We bought two of those as well - and they cost the same as all our other produce combined. But his eyes lit up like a little kid when he saw them.

And he ate them just like a little kid, too - getting the candy goo all over himself.


In retrospect we needn't have bothered buying all those apples. The orchard is huge and despite all the people at the restaurants and the apple activity tent it was pretty devoid of visitors. And the trees were laden with fruit:

laden bough wisley orchard

And clearly not all of them were being picked. I asked the Vol-in-Law if he thought it was alright to eat one off the tree. I'm not sure he thought it was ok. He recounted a childhood tale in which he had ratted on a friend of his for scrumping apples to the friend's parents. I told the ViL I thought that was pretty despicable - telling on a friend - but thought he wasn't likely to tell on me to the garden staff.

I can't remember the name of the apple I plucked from the tree. But it was perfect. Ripe. Flavorsome. Juicy. Tangy. Delicious. I knew the ViL disapproved of my scrumping - I could tell by his disapproving look. But when I said how good it was and offered him a bite - he did take of the apple - and said it was good.

I did notice some other people - people who looked pretty respectable, also eating apples, but I also noticed (when I was on my second apple) someone giving me a pretty nasty look. But that person was not wearing an official nametag - so I felt pretty ok about it.

After our walk in the orchard we went down the apple tent and jostled with all the other middle class people for tastings of cider and juice and bought cake and hot candied pecans. (Mmmmm - good). Every time we have pecans, I have to correct the ViL on his pronunciation. He says it Brit style (is it Yankee style, too?) PEE-can with the second syllable sounding like the can your peas come in. When everyone knows it's more like p'CAAHN - and love that last syllable because pecans taste so good.

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