Grey skies and a pretty constant dribble of rain started our Heathrow Villages day of scrumping, but this was not to deter us! A hot vegetable soup was made from pumpkins and potatoes from the Grow Heathrow veg beds ready for our soggy return from the fruit trees and we set off with wellies, nets, bikes and trailers to our first location; Harmondsworth Great Barn Orchard.
Eight beautiful old variety apple trees make a small orchard in Harmondsworth behind the old barn and St Mary’s church, where the creator of the Cox’s Orange Pippin apple is buried. Having been told these laden trees tend not to be picked anymore there was massive excitement and energy from the scrumping crew to arrive and sample both the cooking and eating varieties. Climbing, shaking and picking apples from the trees and ground we had more than we could carry with the trees still looking as full as they had when we arrived!
Long time Heathrow resident Ken had great knowledge of fruit and nut trees in the area and showed us to a walnut tree in the next field. To someone whithout this local knowledge, it could seem there were no walnuts around but pushing aside the carpet of nettles surrounding the tree: treasure appeared! The field was also covered in yarrow, a medicinal white flowering herb great as a tea for the cold season; a bouquet now hangs in the Grow Heathrow community kitchen drying out ready for use. With 2 bags of walnuts and the yarrow we headed back to site to have some hot lunch and drop off the goods.
Revived and ready for more we scrumped three apple trees next to the site in Sipson and then headed down Sipson Lane to harvest a pear tree heavy with fruit on the side of the road. On our walk down to Harlington hawthorn berries, rosehips and damson plums were also collected from the hedgerows. A final pop to the Airplot to collect some apples from a cooking variety and we were ready to go through and sort the fruit of our labour.
A sorting station in the second greenhouse had been set up so we could separate the blemished fruit from the storable before the attack of the fruit flies. Sorting, drying and stacking the good fruit and then peeling the bruised and cut fruit to stew were the afternoon’s activities.
By sharing the local knowledge of what we already have around us we hope our community will come together in pride to defend it from all future threats.
This day focused on the abundance of fruit trees in the Heathrow villages, we hope to get more residents out and collecting in the coming weeks while the branches are still heavy.
Gather a group of friends and neighbours in your communities and go out in your area (or come to grow Heathrow and scrump here), see what you can find.
Let’s look past the supermarket shelves to the hedgerows!
Next installment is preserving and storing all this wonderful fruit for the winter months; Saturday 23rd October starting 11am come share recipes with us (and a apple press is in the making; Sipson cider!)
More info on urban fruit scrumping: