There are a couple of prime locations in the Walled Garden. The des-res of more exotic plants that perhaps would not normally thrive in our climate. These are the beautifully curved walls of the Walled Garden; both face South. One is on the West side, the other on the East. Having looked closely at these walls I suspect it’s quite a skill to be able to build a curved wall from rectangular bricks and this is about 3-4 meters high.
On the Eastern wall we have an ancient fig. I would estimate that is it about 150 years old. It is very prolific in setting leaf and fruit, but the climate in Ballywalter is not sunny enough for us to get sweet, ripe figs. Great idea to put it where it is, because it must be the most sheltered and warm place in all the grounds at Ballywalter Park. The other thing that hinders the fig performing is the fact that a quince was planted in front of it about 14 years ago. The fig needs all the sun it can get and the quince is by now quite big and takes a lot of light and sun from the fig.
When we planted the orchard, we planted another 6 quinces in one of the “rooms”. As soon as they start producing fruit this older one is for the chop. If we ever get another summer like 2013 I think there is a chance that at least some of the figs could acquire that sweet unctuous ripeness. Wouldn’t that be a triumph, to be able to offer our corporate guests Ballywalter grown figs!
The other spot, on the West side, has a yellow plum but not as old as the fig. As you can see from the photo it is just coming into blossom. It flowers prolifically every year, but only every other year do we actually have a lot of plums. It is probably a bi-annual. This plum is quite typical of old varieties in that it has great flavour when first ripe and ready. For about 3 or so weeks the plums are super delicious, but gradually they somehow lose the flavour, the texture changes and they become a little dull.
Our ancestors were frightfully lucky in that they had so many varieties of fruit, some cookers, some keepers and still some just eaters. Most only lasted a few weeks like our yellow plum, but after one was finished, the next variety came into season and you’d move on to that. During the season we eat lots of the yellow plums fresh and BD makes some lovely jam. I also preserve some in halves for plum tarts.
Now, I love sorbet and therefore I use some for that, what is more, sorbet is the easiest thing in the world to make. You just need a fruit you like, take out stones and/or pips and make a pulp of it. Sweeten it to your palate, then add another 10% sugar after that, because when it’s chilled it loses a lot of flavour. Now you need glycerine, this makes it scoopable, you get it from a proper pharmacist. Put 3-4 drops in and mix well. This is the finished article, all you have to do now is put the mix in a container and freeze it. When it’s hard, take it out put it in the electric blender, small portions at a time. It’ll be obvious when its a sorbet, because it becomes lighter, the ice crystals are gone and it’s smooth. Now put it back in the freezer till you need it.
With our variety of yellow plum I might toast a few strands of saffron and add those into the plums I cook for tarts, but also into the pulp that’ll become sorbet. Saffron somehow enhances the flavour of plums. Last year I bought some saffron crocuses on a trip to Saffron Walden, but I don’t think they came up yet or if they did then I’m not sure I know where they were planted. I’ve not noticed them yet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . JT!!!!