Over the last few weeks we’ve noticed a lot of fruit going unpicked in local orchards and decided eventually to do something about it. Today we knocked on the door of a local orchard owner who was only too happy to let us harvest some fruit. Fruit growing is quite a tradition here in the Aachen area. Around where we live there are many old historic orchards set in an undulating landscape with pastures, hedges, water meadows and ancient broadleaved woodlands; very reminiscent of the English landscape in some ways.
The old orchards, or “streuobstwiesen”, traditionally provided a whole host of products for local people including apples, pears, plums, cherries and sweet chestnuts. They were also often grazed by cattle and so doubled as pasture land. The streuobstwiesen are also very important for nature conservation with ancient fruit trees providing a home for birds such as green woodpeckers, treecreepers, finches and tits as well as a myriad of bugs, beetles and butterfly species.
A number of initiatives are now up and running to encourage landowners to restore and manage the orchards and to continue the planting of new trees, particularly threatened local varieties. When you think about it we live in a crazy world; we import fruit from half way around the planet at vast expense and energy cost whilst just over the garden fence, unpicked fruit is simply left to rot. It would certainly be nice to see more of the fruit being harvested again from local orchards; for now we certainly won’t be buying too many New Zealand Braeburns.