Appley ever after
Reviving the apple orchards of Angus
Dotted across Angus are walled gardens built in the days of the British Empire when a family relied on a retinue of domestic servants to supply fruit and vegetables all year round.
Nowadays the empire and the servants are long gone, but the apple trees remain. Many had been forgotten until recently when Anne Thomson stumbled into one walled garden, like a character from the children's book The Secret Garden, to find delicious apples ripe for the picking.
As Managing Director of Ella Drinks, Anne saw an opportunity. The company now picks apples from 25 orchards around Angus for its Angus Apples juice range.
The exciting thing for Anne is how radically different each bottle tastes. Every batch is a unique combination of varieties grown in different orchards in varying conditions. 'It has more of a tart flavour, too,' she adds.
Angus may be better known for soft fruits, and Ella Drinks also produces the Bouvrage brand, but now Anne has planted 150 juicing apples such as Fiesta, Bramley and Golden Delicious, and they are thriving.
Libby Adam of smaller Downiemill Farm planted 120 trees five years ago, and is already producing a mixture of heritage and commercial varieties for her Appley Ever After brand. She agrees that consumers increasingly like hand-pressed apple juice that reflects the environment and weather. 'It has a totally different flavour,' she says.
Around Angus, more than 350 trees have been planted in schools, old people's homes and community orchards as part of the Angus Orchards Project. Heirloom varieties such as Hoods Supreme, Oslin and the Arbroath Pippin have been saved from possible extinction. Although the orchards are too small to be commercial, children and community groups are making their own juice.
It no longer takes an empire or domestic servants to get the best juice from Angus apples.