According to my dictionary the term to ‘scrump’ means to steal (apples) from an orchard or garden and all you old folkies out there will know that its is closely related to the term ‘scrumpy’ meaning a rough dry cider made from those selfsame apples. Of course the practice of scrumping these days generally refers to picking fruit from neglected street trees or abandoned trees on waste ground. There was even an article in the Canberra Times recently extolling the virtue of collecting these under utilised resources.
While driving between Canberra and Bairnsdale a few weeks ago, we noticed that there were plenty of trees on the roadside verges that were covered in fruit just waiting to be picked. We paid close attention to some trees that were fairly close to Canberra and this weekend we actually got out there to see what we could find. Lots as it turned out.
Our spot had the advantage of hosting a number of trees spread out along several hundred metres. Its not clear whether there were several varieties in the original planting or the variety was a result of the natural variability of apple trees. We tried five different trees and had five different flavours. What did surprise us was the almost complete absence of codling moth and other pests. I found two crisply refreshing tart varieties, one green and one red, while TB and R favoured the three sweeter versions we found. This composite picture shows just how much difference there was to be found.
We had anticipated fruit that thefruit would be small, bitter and/or riddled with pests. This was so far from the quality of the fruit we found that there was a distinct danger of getting ‘scrumpers tummy’ from taste-testing so much fruit.
From the look of some of the scats at the base of some trees it looked like the local fox population was suffering from exactly that.
An added bonus was a small cluster of quince trees from which we managed to find enough fruit for us to stew up for dessert later that evening.
As TB was cooking up a pork loin for dinner I also made some apple butter to go with it. We were ‘forced’ to eat the leftovers on our pancakes for breakfast the next morning. It’s OK I can hear you sobbing in sympathy even as I write this.
Between the three of us we managed to pick 82 kilos of fruit in about two hours. Of course now we just have to process it all!