It’s apple picking season in Germany, which is normally a time when trees hang heavy with the promise of pies, crumbles and sauces. But as Tamsin Walker laments, this is not a normal year.
Last year, I moved into a place with an apple tree that produced such a bounty of fruit I had difficulty using it all. Because they weren’t shiny red and golden specimens, but a kind of speckled pale green, there weren’t queues of people lining up to take them off my hands.
The wasps devoured their share and I picked bag after bag of them, peeling, coring chopping and boiling to make copious amounts of a somewhat explosive sauce. At the time, I vowed to do better next year. I didn’t go into any mental detail about exactly what I meant with that promise to myself, but was loosely certain that whatever it was, it would ensure there was little to zero waste. What the tree yielded, I would use.
And I’m on track. Not, I have to add, because I managed to devise a masterplan, but because to date, the poor old tree has only managed to grow two apples. Two. And even they were speckled.
It seems to be the same story up and down the country. Tricked by warmer weather into thinking it was safe to be seen, the spring blossoms appeared on cue, not knowing, because how could they, that they were blooming on a false sense of security. The frost came and did for them. And, by the way, my half-baked organizational aspirations.
While the latter will recover, the anticipated meager harvest is bad news for farmers in Brandenburg, the state that surrounds and often supplies Berlin.
The regional agricultural ministry estimates a 2017 crop of just 18,000 tons as opposed to 28,000 last year. And that will have an impact on prices. Then, at the very latest, Berliners - who pride themselves on a having a complaint for all seasons - will make themselves heard, will grumble about the unreliability of the weather and its inglorious ramifications. It will become the autumn of overpriced apples.
Until that reality hits, the trees that somehow managed to dogde the icy hands of Jack Frost, and there are some, are replete with shiny red and golden fruit. I pass a small orchard on the former death strip between East and West Berlin on my way to work, and I note its produce getting fatter and riper by the day. So far, I've seen nobody try to pick it. But I'm watching that space. It can only be a matter of time.