Orchards of Fife provide a bounty of fruit
Pear, plum and apple among fruit grown in Fife, Scotland
In a country where we assume that most of our fruit is flown in from abroad
There is a very rare pear tree in Newburgh, on the banks of the Tay estuary. Called the Lindores pear, it’s rooted in the twelfth-century world of Tironensian monks who founded Lindores Abbey just beside the town.
The monks were responsible for the first orchards in the area and today the numerous fruit trees growing in many of Newburgh’s backyards are the living, fruiting link to those monastic days.
All of Newburgh’s trees were professionally surveyed in 2003, revealing close to 1000 mature plum, apple and pear trees, including unusual varieties such as the Lindorsii pear and the Guthrie Taybank plum.
With so many trees, there was always a lot of fruit come the end of summer and no real outlet for such a valuable community asset. Formed in 2004, the Newburgh Orchards Group looked at what could be done. Conversations with local growers blossomed into a series of sales days at which local fruit, as well as jam, and a little locally grown veg, could be offered.
The six Saturdays in late summer/early autumn have proved to be very popular, with typically many hundreds of pounds of fruit and pots of home-made jam and chutney selling out in under two hours. Buyers come from far beyond the town boundaries, with at least one fruit fan taking two buses from Perthshire to load up with fruit such as Newburgh’s distinctive, yellow-hued plum. The enthusiasts of the Newburgh Orchard Group run pruning workshops to keep the fruit flowing from healthy trees and there are plans to broaden local skills to include the art of grafting in order to preserve some of the area’s ancient stocks.
In 2004, local school children dressed as monks took part in a ceremony to mark the planting of a new 84-tree community orchard. This fresh generation of fruit growers planted six different types of cooking and eating apples. This orchard also contains varieties of pear, plum, damson, cherry and medlar. Some of the trees are unusual varieties, but all are known to thrive in the area.
Beyond Newburgh’s big sales days, there are two other dates worth remembering for the apple lover in Fife.
Annual Apple Days have become big crowd-pullers at Lochore Meadows Country Park and in the 150-year-old orchards of Falkland Palace.
Both are a great day out for all ages, with lots to discover, learn, buy and, with pressing equipment working overtime, drink. For those who fancy more than just a refreshing glass of pure, sweet, apple juice, cider-making lessons are being planned for this year at Lochore Meadows.
Kate Morrison, a ranger from the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, has been supporting a wide range of events like the Apple Days. In fact, as part of the North Fife Orchard Project, she and countless volunteers have planted 280 fruit trees at fourteen school and seven community sites across Fife – apples, pears, plums and cherries. With their apple crushers and juicers, the rangers have also been turning out fresh juice at many primary schools, as well as at the Apple Days and Balmullo Flower show.
For those who find themselves with a treeful of fruit and no idea of what to do with it, a more informal programme of juicing days takes place in Auchtermuchty between September and November every season. Polly Murray, a volunteer with the North Fife Orchard trust, hosts these events. She came to appreciate apples, and all that can be done with them, when growing up at her mother’s farm in the West Country. In those days, her mother used a 300-year-old press to make juice and, eventually, cider. Today, the equipment is a little more up-to-date, but the satisfaction of seeing fruit that might otherwise go to waste being turned into fresh juice certainly remains.
Newburgh Plum Market
Last Saturday in August and the first two in September.
Newburgh Apple and Pear Market
Last Saturday in September and the first two in October.
Lochore Meadows Country Park Apple Day
Saturday 16th October
Falkland Palace Apple Day
Sunday 17th October
Treats and Tricks
by Andrew Arbuckle
All through August and September, as soon as we had come home from school, the first stop was the garden where the trees were laden with ripe apples: early ripening varieties such as James Grieve and later ones like Beauty of Bath.
But apples were an ‘all the year round food’, as mum always made sure there were plenty of them stored away. They provided one of our childhood treats which was a tray of big Bramley cookers baked in the oven with syrup and raisins and brown sugar. You had to watch out for the little cloves that mum stuck in the apples because they were nippy when you ate them. It was always good fun to drop the cloves in my sister’s plate when she was not looking.
Fife journalist Andrew Arbuckle’s book We Waved to the Baker recounts his memories of growing up on a farm by the river Tay.