Grow It Yourself - October

The summer harvesting of salads and tomatoes might be easing off a little, but it’s replaced by an abundance of apples. The joy of having your own fruit trees is that September brings gluts of fruit but on the flip side the challenge of having your own fruit trees is that you have do something with those gluts…! This week I have been grappling with buckets and trugs-full of apples.

We just have 4-5 apple trees in the front garden, but as they mature (they were planted maybe 5 years ago) the amount of fruit they produce is growing dramatically. We’ve been eating apples for a few weeks now – grabbing a handful as we head out the door in the morning – but it’s time to get serious about the harvest while it’s at its ripest. Birds and dogs are our most persistent apple pest at the moment. The former sit on the branches and peck at the fruit while the latter develop a serious seasonal interest, grabbing whole apples straight from the tree and munching them contentedly on the deck..

Getting serious about the harvest means getting up on a ladder (or putting a child on your shoulders..!) and taking all the apples from the tree. There’s a certain hunter-gatherer pleasure in stripping an entire tree of ripe apples rather than picking one or two here and there but then of course the challenge becomes what to do with them. How can we store hundreds of apples to make them last in to the winter? There are three ideas below that we use here at home.

If you don’t have your own apple trees (yet..) the same approach could be used with a bulk purchase of organic Irish apples. Considering that 90% of apples in Ireland are imported, it’s very much worthwhile seeking out a good local supplier and buying in bulk while in season. They need your support, and you get a delicious, seasonal, local product in return.

The Basics – Three Ideas for Storing Apples

1. Store them – wrap each apple in a little newspaper and lay them carefully in a clean plastic bin with thick sheets of cardboard in between layers. Try to make sure the apples are not touching each other. Only store the perfect specimens – direct any fruit with bruising or other imperfections in to the kitchen. Put a tight fitting lid on the bin and store somewhere cool – a cool but frost free shed is ideal. Check the apples once a month or so and remove any that are starting to rot.
2. Dry them – a brilliant way to store apples is to slice them thinly (with a knife or mandolin) and dry them. Dip the slices in a bowl of water that has a tablespoon of lemon juice in it which will stop the slices from going brown. Dry them and lay the slices on to parchment paper on a wire rack, making sure they are not touching each other. Place either over a stove or in a low oven. I found it takes around 4-6 hours in an oven on the lowest setting (70 degrees C), turning them from time to time. Or if the stove is lighting, they should dry overnight.
3. Stew them – peel and core five apples and cut in to chunks and then stew them in a tablespoon of water in a saucepan with a lid for 3-4 minutes. At this time of the year you could add a handful of blackberries too, or you could sweeten a little to your taste with honey. Stewed apple with keep in the fridge for a week, or you can freeze it. We make enormous batches for the freezer and it’s a brilliant thing to have to brighten up your morning porridge over the winter.

Recipe of the Week – Apple Traybake

I like baking that has no faffing and this is a really simple tray bake that you can whip up in minutes.


• 450g cooking apples
• Juice of ½ lemon
• 225g butter, softened
• 280g golden caster sugar
• 4 eggs
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 350g self-raising flour
• 2 tsp baking powder
• demerara sugar, to sprinkle


Heat the oven to 180C. Butter and line a baking tin with parchment paper. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples with a knife or mandolin in to a bowl and then pour the lemon juice over them. Mix the sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder in another bowl.

Pour half the mixture into the tin. Arrange half the apples over the top of the mixture, then repeat the layers. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar.

Bake for 45-50 mins until golden and bouncy to the touch. Leave to cool for 10 mins, then turn out of tin and remove paper. Cut into bars or squares.

Michael Kelly is an author, broadcaster and founder of GIY.

© GIY Ireland 2019 – all rights reserved.

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