I thought I'd seen the last of the poppies this year, then along came this translucent purple-black opium poppy. It self-seeded from Black Paeony, which is a fully double (frilly headed) variety, but this one has come out single-flowered. That's poppies for ya!
My Black Plum tomatoes are finally showing signs of ripening after what seems like weeks of sagging under the weight of large, dense, bell-shaped green fruits. They have now taken on a dusky dark orange hue and look quite unlike any other tomato I've seen. There's also one missing from the biggest truss, although there's no sign of it on the ground. I've noticed this a few times now, semi-ripe tomatoes disappearing off the vine overnight never to be seen again. Either some critter is scampering off with them or my neighbour has been using a stick with a hook on the end to scrump them through the fence. (Me? Paranoid?)
Black Plum contemplates the possibility of ripening. And yes, it is meant to be that weird colour.
Meanwhile I've been keeping a close watch on my one and only Taynton Codlin apple, because it appears to be naturally green all over and therefore difficult to judge when it's ripe (and unlike tomatoes, you can't really squidge them to see how soft they are). This morning when I did my tour of the garden I found it had fallen off the tree altogether, which I took to be a reasonable indication of ripeness. So ... only a few months after I bought these trees as flimsy twiggy one-year-olds I am doing my second heritage apple tasting. I had expected to have to wait about five years.
One thing I need to explain about this apple is that I know next to nothing about it. There is no information out there, it's so rare. It's not listed in my apple encyclopedia, nor on the Brogdale National Collection database, so when I eat it I'll be biting into uncharted territory. All I know about it is that it originated locally in about 1700 and it's a cider/cooking apple, which could mean anything really. My mum, who is a Somerset lass and knows a thing or two about cider apples, says it probably means it'll have a tartness that takes the roof of your mouth off. Sounds good to me!
The first striking thing about this apple is the scent. I don't think I've ever come across a more aromatic apple ... just having it on my desk it's filling the room with exquisite appleness. It's a beautiful aroma, quite different from the bland crap you get in the shops. Unlike the Tewkesbury Baron, which I photographed from a particular angle so that you couldn't see the brown blotchy bits on the other side, this apple is flawless. It has natural lumps and bumps as befitting a 300-year-old cider apple but not a single blemish. And it was organically grown too. I'm impressed.
The skin is quite waxy and although it has a dull matt sheen it polishes up to a high gloss. The colour is a really bright pea green which is consistent all over.
I will do a taste test but in all honesty it smells so good I just have to leave it sitting on my desk for a couple more hours ... *sigh* ...
6 hours later ...
Mmmm, wonderful! The skin is a bit on the chewy side, and the pale green flesh oxidises and browns very rapidly, but the flavour is fantastic. Very acidic, very sharp, with none of the crabapple dryness I was expecting. A real acid-drop sensation with an intensely appley flavour. It's definitely not for the sweet-toothed but it's very very lovely. The flesh texture is crunchy and juicy. And if this is what our rustic ancestors used to make cider with then it's a wonder they didn't just sit around pissed all day. (Oh, er, actually ...)
What a joy it's been to rediscover these old apples. I pretty much stopped eating apples many years ago because I can't stand the homogenised supermarket varieties, boring and sweet and watery. I don't even like the mushy and over-rated Cox which is about the only old-fashioned English apple still readily available. In recent years I've found a local farm whose orchard shop sells a decent range of apples which taste massively better, and it's worth going there just to listen to the farmer's "I can't believe anyone really talks like that" Gloucestershire accent. But the fruit on these old local varieties, which I didn't even have a chance to try out before I committed to planting them, is out of this world.