Places: The old apple tree

When I stand at my kitchen sink and look out the window I am greeted with the sight of an old, weathered apple tree; gnarled with age, twisted by the elements and dressed in a verdant jacket of ivy. I don’t think this gentle giant has ever been near a pair of pruning shears in its lifetime and as a result the apples it produces never grow bigger than a plumb and fall from the boughs in the lightest of winds. At best we can use the apples to play a rudimentary game of ‘garden’ cricket in the early autumn or as targets for catapult practice with the kids. Too sour and too small for me to use in any of my recipes, not even chutney or jam, the apples are left to rot at the foot of the tree.

I am often asked why I don’t replace it with a fruit tree that can produce a crop that I can use in my recipes but I will tell you why. In spring it produces the most wonderful blossoms, delicate and sweet with fragrance. In the correct light the blossom becomes almost incandescent, lighting up an area of the garden which has currently gone to weed and mud.

It offers shelter and protection throughout the year for not only my chickens but the countless wildlife that live in and around the apple tree. And although it may not yield fruit that I am able to use in my cookery, it feeds a multitude of creatures instead; I therefore think this is a fair trade.

The way I like to look at it is that this old apple tree is in retirement and should therefore be treated with love and reverence.  It is a provider of good food, much like myself, we just cater for different audiences. And while it continues to produce pollen that the bees can dust their fuzzy little knees with, fruit that the birds and insects get sustenance from and shelter for the woodlice and other creepy crawlies that make their home amongst the bark, then it is still very much an invaluable member of my garden community.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”

― William Blake