May is an optimistic month. It is a time when all kinds of floral smells attack the nostrils. Some earthy and warm, some heady and luxurious whilst others are silky, soft and unassuming. The apple blossom is in this third portion. Stand under any apple tree when the flowers are open and its sweet perfume gently tumbles over you.
Every year I look at my apple trees in full bloom with wonderment and hope. How many of these blooms will grow into apples? It is often disappointing when the final crop emerges as it is so dependent on many other would-be catalysts as to how many apples will grow large enough to pick. The first problem being the shortage of pollinators – the flying insects. There are still only very few bees around and those are mostly the large varieties of bumble bee. Secondly – weather conditions. We need swathes of warm sunny weather to give the flowers the chance of a fair few being pollinated. Once this has occurred it should be followed by regular spells of gentle rain to make the young fruit swell. Thirdly – wind. If we are lucky enough to have gentle breezes then more of the fruit will have a fair chance to fully form but if there are violent gusts and gales then much of the crop will find itself flung harshly onto the floor.
The Bramley Apple is the best cooking apple in the world as it ‘falls’ after a short while during the cooking process. ‘Falls’ is the term used in apple cooking meaning that the apple pulp becomes light and frothy in heat.