An Apple A Day…

Hi everyone! All my regular blog followers will know I love apples, especially the ones you can pick straight off the tree and eat there and then. There is nothing quite like picking your own apples and eating it right away. If you’re not as lucky as me to have apple trees in your garden, don’t worry, now is the perfect time to plant your very own apple tree and you could be picking your own this summer! Here is my list of the best apples to grow in your garden so you can easily have an apple a day…

Me when I was littler, eating one of our home grown apples


1. ‘Chivers Delight’
This is a late flowerer and cropper referred to in the trade as a ‘Cox Plus’. It has as much flavour (if not more) than ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ and better acidity, which it keeps in storage. Cox famously go woolly quickly in storage, whereas the flesh of ‘Chivers Delight’ remains firm and nutty. This fell out of commercial favour because of its colour irregularity. If the sun is on it, the fruit goes red, but it will not colour up on the shady side. This does not affect the flavour but makes them difficult to sell.
2. ‘Spartan’
Nothing has the same richness of colour as ‘Spartan’, a lovely deep plum red, with almost bright white, contrasting flesh. It’s a beautiful apple, which stays late on the tree and makes a fabulous eater with very juicy fruit. It’s the one I use at Perch Hill for Christmas wreaths and, being a good storer, is widely available late in the year.
3. ‘Blenheim Orange’
A fabulously aromatic, peppery, almost spicy apple with a softer nuttiness than you get with the similar-flavoured ‘Egremont Russet’. This variety is a bit prone to scab, so is best grown on its own and certainly away from very scab-prone varieties such as ‘Crispin’.
4. ‘Egremont Russet’
A famous apple with a wonderful nutty, woody texture and a very characteristic taste, floral and heady, so you can almost smell the blossom. It stores well, with the flavour deepening to honey.
5. ‘Pitmaston Pine Apple’
This is a very unusual apple, difficult to find but, in Henry’s view, worth the effort. It eats like a ‘Greensleeves’ early on, but you can store it until April when the flavour morphs into pineapple.
6. ‘Greensleeves’
A light, crispy, full-of-flavour apple, lovely and crunchy straight off the tree. This is the one ‘Golden Delicious’ aspires to be, with excellent flavour in a beautiful pale yellow fruit.
7. ‘Discovery’
This is one of the first to harvest (in August.) If we get a sunny July and August, the redness leaches from the skin into the flesh. Then if you press it, you’ll have a beautiful pale pink juice.
8. ‘Worcester Pearmain’
A rich, creamy apple with a really strong flavour, one of the original varieties brought over by the Normans. It’s just about surviving in the UK, but you don’t see it often, apart from in the Wye Valley where it’s usually pressed into juice.
9. ‘Howgate Wonder’
A great all-rounder apple – a good cooker early on, it also presses well and mellows the later you leave it, with the acidity dropping away, so it can be eaten as a dessert apple from the store or tree. It’s one of the few varieties where you can leave the fruit on the tree, start harvesting in August and carry on until the end of October at least. It performs well whatever the weather and is often a challenger for the largest fruit.
10. ‘Médaille d’Or’
Our final recommendation is this wonderful bittersweet cider apple, still abundantly on the tree, until the end of November. The tree’s appearance is unique, knotted and gnarled in the winter and very late to blossom in the spring. You think they’re dead and then out the flowers come towards the end of May. The fruit is small and very acid, essential tannin for flavouring cider. They are pruned to weep in the Aspall orchards, with graceful branches arching down almost to ground level. You can get right in underneath and be enclosed in an apple den.

Once your apple tree is established, remember to keep it pruned to make sure it stays healthy, looks pretty and provides the best possible crop. To read all about how to do that then click here.

If you have a lot of apples or your little one isn’t big enough to eat apples straight off the tree, turning them into a yummy puree which can also be frozen is a great idea.

Happy growing and remember to eat an apple a day!

Hugs & kisses,

Lulu xx

Birthday Carrot & Pineapple Muffins

It’s officially birthday season, hooray! I have been at birthday parties the last two weekends to celebrate with my lovely friends. What is even more exciting is there is another party this weekend and it’s mine! I will officially be a big girl – I, Lulu Ann Burt, will be TWO years old! As you know I (with a little help from M&D) like to cook with lovely things from the garden and that goes for birthday baking too. Here is one of the lovely treats in store for party-goers this weekend – carrot & pineapple muffins!

Yummy carrot & pineapple muffins, ready for my birthday party!

Yummy carrot & pineapple muffins, ready for my birthday party!

Carrots are a main ingredient of what I am going to tell you about today. Carrots store really well and you may be lucky enough to still have some left from your own garden. I love growing carrots – my top tips for growing carrots are:

  I love a carroty nibble! And look, my hair even looks like a pineapple!

I love a carroty nibble! And look, my hair even looks like a pineapple!

There are loads of yummy things to do with carrots from eating them raw to cooking them to have with your dinner or in soups. I like baking with them too as they are sweet and healthy. Today I am going to share the recipe which my friends will get to try at the weekend:

Birthday Carrot & Pineapple Muffins

  • 100g/4oz plain flour
  • 100g/4oz plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 200ml/7fl oz vegetable oil
  • 90g/3½oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 120g/4½oz finely grated carrots
  • 225g/8oz tinned crushed pineapple, semi-drained
  • 100g/4oz raisins
To make:
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt and mix well. Beat the oil, sugar and eggs until well blended. Add the grated carrots, crushed pineapple and raisins. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating just enough to combine all the ingredients.
3. Pour the batter into muffin trays lined with paper cases and bake for 25 minutes (1). Cool on a wire rack.Now I just need to work on growing pineapples 😉


(1) If you want to make smaller ones you will need to reduce your baking time

Thanks to the very clever Annabel Karmel for coming up with this recipe. She rocks!

Perfect Potatoes

Potatoes are great, aren’t they? They are a bit like me, wonderfully versatile 😉 As you all know by now, I am Lulu the Secret Blogger, and I like to update you on what is happening in my garden as well as lots of other general gardening wonderments. Today, I am mostly talking perfect potatoes (or top tatties!)

M&D have tried many varieties of potatoes over the years, some good, some not so good. They reliably informed me that one of their favourites was Maris Peer so that was what we chose to plant again this year. Way back in April, when it felt like summer would never arrive, we planted our seed potatoes in our raised beds. Over the months I watched with amazement as plants would poke through the surface of the soil which would then be covered over again with earth until they sprouted so high they were free to sun themselves. Flowers appeared and then, eventually, the foliage slowly started to die back. One day, Daddy announced it was time to dig deep in the raised beds and see what we could find – how exciting! Just like a treasure hunt. Here are some photos of how to successfully dig up potatoes, Lulu-style…

  1. First, dig and collect the potatoes. Be careful with your fork as you don’t want to spear all the potatoes and ruin them.
  2. Next, carefully inspect each potato. Teeny small ones, green ones & rotten ones are all discarded.

    Quality control is very important when you are sorting perfect potatoes

    Quality control is very important when you are sorting perfect potatoes

  3. Then, carefully put the potato in the correct trug. One for good potatoes, one for the discarded potatoes. It’s important to remember which one is which!

    Our trug full of lovely perfect potatoes

    Our trug full of lovely perfect potatoes

  4. It is very hard work so if you feel tired, have a wee lie down! They did say this was a raised bed!
Have a roll in the veg beds to get warmed up!

Have a lie down in the veg beds – it is such hard work!

5. Serve them with some of the other lovely veg from your garden, yum!

A plate full of lovely home grown veg

A plate full of lovely home grown veg

We grew our potatoes in our raised beds but you can grow potatoes anywhere – in your flower border, in a pot, in a compost bag. They are super-easy to grow, really cheap and they taste so much nicer than supermarket potatoes.

Store your potatoes in a hessian sack in a cool, dry place like your shed or garage. They will keep well for a few months but keep checking on them and remove any that are starting to show signs of rot straight away.

Hope you have as much fun as I did digging (and eating) up potatoes! Click here to read about what else we have harvested this year.


Harvest, Hooray!

I had a really fun weekend here at Vialii Towers with M&D. On Saturday it was really quite wet so we stayed indoors and did lots of fun arty projects with crayons, pencils, paints and glue! On Sunday the weather was a lot better which meant we could get outside and give the garden a bit of a tidy It was also time to harvest some of the fruit and vegetables we have been growing over recent months.

Harvest: Sometimes what we were picking didn't quite make it to the basket...

Sometimes what we were picking didn’t quite make it to the basket…

Now, regular readers will know that we had quite an array of vegetables we were growing this year. Some things didn’t do so well like the spring onions ‘cos someone kept climbing up onto the veg beds and lying there (1). And the cavolo nero suffered as the caterpillars decided they were going to get in there first (2)! Not to worry as we still had loads more things we were growing. Here is a pic of a few of the things we did manage to harvest at the weekend:

We harvested lots, from parsnips to chard and beetroot to turnips!

We harvested lots, from parsnips to chard and beetroot to turnips! Oh and some potatoes and apples too!


1. I can’t imagine who that could have been!We had a scrummy dinner with the potatoes and Mummy roasted the beetroot, parsnips and courgette. Then she made a rhubarb crumble and a lovely Rhubarb & Lemon Cake.

2. Next year I am going to insist that we cover the kale in netting before butterflies can lay their eggs and caterpillars get munching!