Crunching across swathes of ombre leaves, wearing your finest (and thickest) winter coat and 4 metre scarf, and having apple-themed meals all day everyday; this can only be described as THE best time of the year. Autumn is well and truly upon us, the frosty air taking a beating to our protruding facial parts and warm drinks being a source of warmth rather than a refreshing beverage. But Autumn brings one top notch friend along to the party; Apple Day.
In my home city, Coventry, England, I used to volunteer as a gardener at these wonderful organic gardens out in the countryside. And every year they would hold the greatest, most majestic Apple Days; an apple themed organic menu, traditional apple juice pressing, apple picking, apple events – you name it. In fact, you’d inevitably end up making one too many rounds of the gardens and eat so many apples you’d be more than set for the next year…
Since being in London I seemed to of let slip this magical event as I entered a world full of hustling, bustling commuters and urban jungles – apple day seemed left behind in another world. But after a recent epiphany of sorts, I realised just how enjoyable (and how important!) this traditional spirit of collecting ethical groceries from your local farmers, celebrating plants and crops in season and generally appreciating and thanking mother nature for all her hard work is. I thus sought to do all I could to make sure I could do so once again, and just so happened to stumble across Borough Market’s Apple Day event.
Being a renown market in itself, Borough Market was bound to host a fitting day for the year’s season apple harvest – specially opening on a Sunday says it all. As you enter the market there are “red” carpets made from turf lining the walkways and streets, hay bales perching atop. Regular traders line and fill the Green Market area, serving up their usual specialities alongside unique apple products specially for the day; apple and almond tarts, apple tart-tatins, apple sourdough loaves, hot apple cider… if there is a heaven, I had found it.
Elsewhere, local traders and producers enthusiastically represented the world of apples, offering apple tastings and their knowledge to the general public, also sharing the apples of old England before they sadly disappear for good. Never thought about how different apples could be and taste? Well now was the time to learn a thing or two. Opposite, chef Katherine Frelon, lovingly cooked up a plethora of apple-themed dishes, all of which were dished out to loyal spectators (or cheeky hungry passers by, i.e. me). The star of the show no doubt being a blueberry, lemon and apple tray-cake; hot, buttery and fluffy, served with thick double cream from producers at Borough Market, it was a pudding made for snuggling up in bed with – shame we were were standing in the crisp London air instead.
Following the turf-carpets, you arrived at a bustling make-shift theatre space, occupied by theatre groups The Lions Part and The Fabularium. Annually, The Lion’s Part conduct “October Plenty” festivities outside Shakespeare’s Globe, this year leading harvest processions, dancing, games, and traditional events such as Morris dancing, conker battling and ever entertaining apple bobbing. Who doesn’t want to see loads of screaming children willingly throw their heads into a bucket of cold water to catch a piece of fruit with the teeth? This Autumn harvest celebration mixes ancient seasonal customs and theatre with contemporary general festivity, joining forces with Borough Market’s yearly Apple Day for a celebration of the seasons, weather and food.
Apple bobbing; who doesn’t want to see a load of screaming children willingly dunk their heads into a bucket of cold water?
A huge Corn Queene effigy heavy with ‘Plenty’ – wheat, barley and other grains, and apples, root vegetables and foliage from Borough Market.
The Fabularium, funnily enough originating from my hometown (if that wasn’t a sign I don’t know what is) reenacted the fabulous tale of “Reynard the Fox”. A gigantic cyclops shepherd, towering high above on stilts, was guided through the market with the help of Reynard the Fox, accompanied by a Lion Accordionist and a flock of singing, dancing and sleeping sheep (in that order, on repeat) being herded by an overjoyed sheep-dog.
Over in another cranny of the market resided a magical Story Orchard, apple trees for sale and local apples to bag by the kilo. A gigantic traditional apple press occupied it’s own space, producing kegs of the sweetest, tastiest juice you’ll ever sample. Barrels of apple cider attracted the masses, and hot and spicy apple cider was ladled out to keep one’s fingers warm. Over by Southwark Cathedral a harvest worship was held, joined by the Market’s choir to spread yet more joy and celebration.
Laden with freshly pressed juice, apples by the dozen, giant Apple Day posters and a belly full of tasters, my home-town Apple Day memories flooded back. Rarely a day is so full of magic, tradition and joy, it makes you think what the heck are we doing on the other 364 days a year – for me, not even Christmas can beat this. The joyous celebration of a such a nourishing and traditional English fruit, and the importance that was once held in the autumnal yearly harvest is something so humble yet truly amazing in itself, and that I think is the beauty of a day like Apple Day.
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