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At appleTeme we hand pick and press local apples to create delicious tasting apple juice. Each limited press has great character and depth of flavour due to a mix of apple varieties. This is achieved by blending an assortment of heritage varieties, many particular to Shropshire and Herefordshire and not found in commercial production today. We have our main orchard at Tickmore, but we also get apples from the Tenbury Millennium Orchard as well as many privately owned orchards in and around the Ludlow area, including Augernik Fruit Farm.
Apple picking begins in late summer, increasing during the autumn, picked when just ripe. They are then stored accordingly to allow suitable optimum flavour. Our straight apple juice is classified as either sweet, medium or tangy. We list the main varieties on the back of the tag label just so you will always know what you’re drinking.
Indeed, we make the most of forgotten fruits such as the wonderfully flavourful Shropshire Prune Damson, quinces, blackberries, elderberries, medlars and more recently mulberries which we blend with our apple juice to create exciting new flavours. We also like to use elderflower, cherries, gooseberries and blackcurrants when we have good glut years. Try our juice warmed with spices in the winter or with sparkling water in the summer, they suit all seasons and can be enjoyed any time of the day.
Avlaki’s Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oils bring a different experience of olive oil. Bottled unfiltered and unadulterated after picking and milling the fruit, they are the closest you can get to understanding what fresh olive oil is all about, as opposed to the commercially produced offerings in the supermarket.
We only pick the fruit in late November/December when the olives are at their optimum for quality and flavour; we bottle as quickly as we can to capture the essence, the aromas, the tastes of fresh oil – and the nutritional values.
Avlaki’s oils are certified ‘Organic’ at every stage from the tree to the bottle; verified ‘Extra Virgin’ with extensive chemical and organoleptic tests in an International olive oil council approved laboratory ; and registered ‘Vegan’
The harvests from our two different terrains are bottled separately: they each produce a different ‘finish’ in the oil: our high grown mountain oil ‘Agatherí Groves’ is exceptionally light on the palate, a brilliant accompaniment to the more delicate ingredients; salads and micro greens, steamed baby veg, chicken. It makes a marvellous light mayonnaise with fresh organic eggs.
‘Avlaki Groves’, coming from warmer richer fields, has a buttery, creamy finish that nicely balances more spicy, zesty flavours: ripe tomatoes, garlic, strong cheese, chilli. Great too to finish barbecued meats.
We have a third, general purpose oil, a mix from organic farmers who also harvest at the same time. An excellent all-rounder, we use it for all sorts in the kitchen: frying eggs, sauté potatoes, roast winter veg, ratatouille, baking bread.
Our oils come from a very small particular locality in the south of the Greek island of Lesvos, an island well-known in Greece for producing oils that are particularly light in texture, never overwhelming food or leaving an unpleasant greasy feeling on the palate, or indeed a pungent burning in the throat.
We never intended to be olive farmers: we bought a small plot by the sea on Lesvos as a bolt-hole, then found ourselves contravening local planning regulations from which we could only extricate ourselves with buying more land: all of which was in a dreadful barren condition, all planted with olive trees, all badly neglected, but which all responded superbly to the TLC from UK gardeners! We then found that the taste of the oils they produced, freshly milled, was nothing like anything we thought we knew about olive oil! Vibrant, lively, with a sweet and complicated aroma of olives, grasses, citrus, flowers…
As we learned more, we also discovered that most of the traditional farming practices locally were not wonderful for the trees - so we immediately started the conversion to organic. We researched the latest science on olive oil production, investigated the best practice for soil recovery, practicing permaculture, encouraging bio-diversity. So now, 20+ years later, our fields are carpets of wild flowers of so many varieties in spring, we have plenty of cover for insects and birds in the bushes and trees around the olives, and if you keep still and quiet you see the wildlife scurrying about their business in the long grasses.
20 years on, our trees have become members of our family. We’ve pruned, mulched, cut the wild suckers away, nurtured the new growth, brought the badly damaged back into new life. Local records suggest that our high fields could have been planted in the 14th century; strimming the growth away from around many of the trunks reveal evidence of their very old history.
It’s become a long and wonderful departure from Natalie’s previous broadcasting life as the ubiquitous fog-horn on the Arts for the BBC. For Deborah, who is a painter, but also looks after the work of her late husband the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan, it’s an escape from the indoor emotional hothouse of the ballet world where she looks after revivals and new productions around the world.
We have kept a small apiary here at Stubbs Barn for over five years, but when I retired from my business last year, I turned my hand to building up the size and number of hives. Working with another ardent beekeeper, “Bob the Bee”, our hives have produced a plentiful supply of honey earlier in the year. The work will continue until late summer, building new colonies and preparing the apiary for the coming winter.
Our bees collect nectar and turn it into honey, storing it in honey-comb frames with each cell topped with wax. We then extract the honey from the comb by spinning the frames of honey and filtered through a fine sieve to remove any wax or bee debris. The consistency of the honey will vary depending on the time of year and the nectar available. Early in the year, the yellow fields of oilseed rape produce solid white honey, and later in the year, we obtain thick dark honey from Ivy flowers.
This year we have also started to re-wild our paddocks. The grass is left to grow, and we’ve planted areas with scrub plants which provide food and cover for birds and nectar and pollen for bees. This effort was supported by our local bumblebee preservation project - the Chet Bee Line - creating a corridor to connect wild areas for bumblebees.