Wordjoy: Mellow Fruitfulness

Hey-ho. Let’s head back to the country this week on Wordjoy to talk about fruit.

A couple of linguistically uninteresting but posh-sounding terms are soft fruit, which means exactly that, mostly berries that are too delicate to store or transport, and stone fruit, which are all the fruits with big, hard pits, like peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries.

Some fruit trees will drop only ripe fruit when shaken–no matter how hard you shake. Apple trees, I’m told, are like this. Some others, like pears and plums, require finesse in the shaking for fear of loosening unripe fruit along with the ripe. These trees require nurdling, or shaking -just- hard enough and in -just- the right way to make only the ripe fruit fall. Nurdling has other meanings: one can nurdle by insinuating a cricket ball into empty parts of the field, or one can nurdle in conversation by talking about things one knows not. But it’s also the graceful art of tree-shaking, and so be it.

If the fruit tree doesn’t belong to you but you take fruit from it anyway, that’s scrumping. One poaches game animals, scrumps fruit, and rustles both horses and timber.

Most fruits are best eaten ripe, but a few fruits are actually best eaten rotten. When we’re going to eat them it isn’t called rotting, though, it’s called bletting. Fruits that need to be bletted to be edible include quince, persimmon, sea buckthorn berries, and medlars. The medlar isn’t a common fruit anymore–I’ve never seen one in person–but when it’s bletted it has a brown skin that puckers around the base, earning its affectionate nicknames, monkey-bum and dog’s-arse.

Quince is a well-loved fruit of home preservers. It’s good for jelly and for everything on the desiccation lineup: you can dry the pulp into quince paste, dry it further to quince cheese, or really go crazy and make quince leather. Of course lots of other fruits can be made into pastes, cheese, and leathers too. Pumpkin leather was the all-purpose energy bar of the American colonies.

Lastly, some fruit tree management terms. In a previous entry I talked about pollarding or coppicing trees. That means to cut their trunks straight across so they send out lots of small branches. This isn’t something done to fruit trees, but sometimes they are espaliered. That means they’re planted up against a wall–usually south-facing for the warmth–and a small number of branches are trained to grow directly against the wall. This encourages heavy fruiting on the few branches that are left, ripens the fruit faster because the trees stay warm, and saves space inside a walled garden.

Here is a picture of a walled garden with espaliered apple trees:

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That’s all for this week. Hope you enjoyed these fruity ramblings. See you next Saturday!

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