Nothing screams ‘AUTUMN’ quite like a crate full of plump, bright orange pumpkins. I’m not really one for Halloween as such, I mean it’s fun for the kids but I’m already too busy buzzing about Christmas (yes I said it, no I’m not apologising!) to pay it much attention, but there’s something truly heartwarming about a cluster/bunch/collective of pumpkins. That’s what I was faced with when I drove into Charlton Orchards to meet with Duncan for a look about and a chat. Imagine how excited I was when I found out there was an actual pumpkin patch…squee!!
However, pumpkins aside, that’s not what I was here for. I’ve had to put my patient pants on for this meeting because orchards aren’t all that interesting through the camera lense unless there is something on the tree to look at, consequently this means that the orchards are then very busy doing all the picking and packing of the fruit.`
So you may or may not know that Charlton Orchards have been growing exceptionally delicious apples for nearly 70 years. Originating as a humble 4 acres back in 1957, owned by business partners Matthew Freudenberg and Robin Small, Charlton Orchards has since expanded into 35 acres of land growing approximately 35 varieties of apple, including many heritage varieties,pears, soft fruits, squashes and kitchen plants.
(I have to say here as an aside, that the kitchen plants grown at Charlton Orchards were one of the offerings at Taunton Farmers Market that had me hooked from the start, that and The Chillees’ Smokey Joe chipotle sauce).
Most of the day to day running of the orchards is now done by Sally and Duncan, Duncan being the son of Robin Small. Duncan and Sally had worked at Charlton Orchards for many years before joining Robin and Matthew in becoming partners of the company in 2004 and are proud to have brought the sales of plants, pumpkins and squashes to the orchards. As I said before the pumpkin patch had me quite excited, I currently have four of them sat on my kitchen table awaiting their fate in the hands of my children…
Charlton Orchards have been attending Taunton Farmers Market since it first began in 1999, making them one of only two remaining founders of the ‘Best Farmers Market in the South West’ (read about that immediately here if you haven’t already, we’re ridiculously proud!) along with the lovely Graeme from Wallaces Farm, maker of the most amazing pork pies (read about Graeme here). They sell not only to the market, and other local stockists, but also online. I find this intriguing that people would buy apples online but apparently it is absolutely a ‘thing’ and it all started because a journalist wrongly reported in the Sunday Times that Charlton Orchards offer ‘Apples by Post’. They didn’t, but after several enquiries decided that perhaps they should, if the market is there then why ever not, it makes good business sense. The biggest sellers online tend to be the unusual/heritage varieties of apple, and interestingly approximately half of the orders are sent up North, to Scotland and also the Northern Isles.
Another product from Charlton Orchards is the apple juice, the apples for this juice, are grown at the orchards then picked and transported to Four Elms Fruit Farm in Sidmouth where they are turned into these beautiful bottles of juice. I have my eye on this for some alcohol free mulled punch…see told you I’ve got Christmas on the brain…
As a general rule, you will find fruit such as pears, plums, gooseberries, currants and of course apples for sale on the market between August and February, then from February onwards is the time to be buying your baby plants to grow in your yard, allotment, patio, balcony planter…wherever your garden grows.