Autumn is here, and hopefully we have an abundance of apples, blackberries, elderberries, rosehips, and probably currants already in the freezer, and maybe grapes from your polytunnel. Welcome to the world of BIY (Brew It Yourself) as my colleague Phil would say. Home wine making is simple and inexpensive, and you can easily find the ingredients in your garden or in the wild. Making cider is even simpler.
This autumn, I am trying to produce a natural hard cider without any additional ingredients by simply letting fresh, organic, unpasteurised, unfiltered apple juice ferment from sweet to sour from non-alcoholic to alcoholic. It’s at foaming stage in a demi-john at present, covered with a muslin. After five weeks I will siphon it into a new clean demi-john and ferment it further with an airlock, resisting the advice to use a yeast at that stage. I have also started an apple wine using windfalls. (For recipes, please e-mail me.)
At The Organic Centre we have an orchard with more than 50 different varieties of apples, a few pears and a few plums. The orchard was established to demonstrate that we can produce apples in Ireland and more specifically in the northwest of the island. Our annual Apple Day in September aims to encourage everyone to grow apples, from a few trees to an orchard.
Some people - and I include myself - believe that growing fruit is easier than growing vegetables, because fruit bushes and trees need far less attention. A vast array of fruits can be grown very easily in pots, containers, small spaces and bigger gardens or orchards. Most of us can find a space in our gardens or around the house to grow an apple tree or plant a few fruit bushes.
It goes without saying that fruit is very good for us all. It is a great low fat source of nutrients and contains many antioxidants. Several anti-cancer studies have shown, a daily intake of apples provides anti-cancer benefits. So there may be some truth in that old phrase: ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’.
Apple polyphenols are standout nutrients in this widely loved fruit. Apples are a good source of fibre, including the soluble fibre pectin, and are also a good source of vitamin C. Apple nutrients are disproportionately present in the skin and this is why organic apples are definitely the best choice for health as it is safe to eat the apple whole, skin and all!
We need to grow or buy and eat organically produced apples, which haven’t been sprayed many times with pesticides or other chemicals. According to the Soil Association in England, Cox’s apples for example can be sprayed up to 16 times with 36 different pesticides.
Tree of knowledge
The Organic Centre has two courses in this area coming up: ‘Wine and cider making’ on Saturday, October 8, and ‘Grow your own fruit – Winter workshop’, with Phil Wheal, on November 5.
The best books to buy are ‘The Fruit Tree handbook’, by Ben Pike, for the growing part, and the classic ‘First steps in wine making’, by the aptly named CJJ Berry.
> Hans Wieland is training manager at The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim, which offers courses, training and information on organic growing and cooking, and runs an Eco Shop and an online gardening store. For more information, visit www.theorganiccentre.ie.
Gardening questions or comments? Contact Hans at firstname.lastname@example.org.