May Project Gardens apple harvest weekend took place last weekend and was a great success. On the garden site we have a very mature apple tree and she supplies us with a large bounty of fruit during the summer months. This tree is at least 20 years old and it's variety of apple has still not been confirmed. During the three days of the apple harvest weekend we collected about 80kg of apples and got approximately 30lt of juice as a result.
On the Friday we had a visit from two groups of children who loved every bit of the project. We first took them on a tour of the garden site where they saw how a variety of their favourite and not so favourite fruits and vegetables grown. During the tour they learnt about attracting diversity to the garden by creating various ecosystems. One such ecosystem was the May Pond. Identifying the creepy crawlies that make the pond their home was one of the activities we had the youngsters doing on the day and it really sparked their enthusiasm.
Learning about wild pond life
After the tour which takes about 15mins it was time to get juicing. Two weeks before the apple harvest weekend we collected the fallen apples and stored them in the open on a tarpaulin sheet. There is a very interesting property the apple has which causes it to soften once it leaves the tree. This softening process causes the apple to convert it's flesh to sugars and as a result produce sweeter juice once pressed. So we had the apples sitting on the ground for a minimum of two weeks before pressing.
Washing then select the apples
All the partially rotted fruits were removed from the pile and the remaining were washed and subjected to the crusher. One the weekend we were loaned a traditional apple crusher and press courtesy of Mr. Richard Burns Cheers Wine Making and Brewing. Crushing was the most physically demanding task of the whole juicing process.
With the hardest work out of the way we then had to transfer the crushed material to the press. The press works by extracting the juice from the crushed apples by applying a constant pressure. Another fun fact about apples juicing is that it is not advisable to put the maximum pressure in one go as most of the juice gets trapped in the compressed mass. Instead only add pressure until the juice begins to flow out of the bottom at a steady rate, once this flow stops a bit more pressure is applied until the flow starts up again.
Transferring the crushed apples
Another fun fact about apples juicing is that it is not advisable to put the maximum pressure in one go as most of the juice gets trapped in the compressed mass. Instead only add pressure until the juice begins to flow out of the bottom at a steady rate, once this flow stops a bit more pressure is applied until the flow starts up again.
100% Pure fresh Apple Juice
The results were amazing. "Tastes......normal" commented one of the youngsters on trying a glass of the freshly pressed juice, another noted "You can taste the sunshine." While the juice flowed out of the press visitors were encouraged to sample some of the produce of the project. We had plum and apple jam, blackberry and apple jam, blackberry juice, freshly harvest carrots and tomatoes, dried lemon balm and fresh mints for making teas.
A selection of the produce grown and made on site
Fun times at May Project Gardens
Saturday brought with it rain and so we had very few visitors so we simple sheltered under the gazebo and made rope from the leaves of a plant called New Zealand Flax, very strong material which is slow to rot.
New Zealand Flak rope
Sunday the rain clouds shifted and the sun shone once again and with it came more visitors. We had visitors from all corners of London just to share in the experience. With the adults visiting the site, the aim was to inform and inspire. On arrival we gave them a guided tour of the space explaining the concepts and functions of each element. During the tour they would ask questions voice their concerns and problems they were having in their own gardens.
Trying the produces
The adults too tried their hands at both crushing and pressing some of the apples and all had a fun with it.
We managed to get quite a bit of juice over the weekend, most of which was drunk on the day of juicing. We also had 17.5lt which we are now turning into apple cider.
All in all the apple harvest weekend was a huge success. We managed to attract a wide range of individuals, form all across the city of London and raised enough funds to erect a communal structure and complete our irrigation system. A big thank you to all those who helped make the weekend happen. I now leave you with a few more pictures of the weekend.