On Winter-Proofing Apples, 1820s style

Singular and simple Manner of preserving Apples from the Effects of Frost, in North America.
Apples being produced most abundantly in North America, and forming an article of chief necessity in almost every family, the greatest care is constantly taken to protect them from frost at the earliest commencement of the winter season ; it being well known, that apples, if left un protected , are inevitably destroyed by the first frost which occurs. This desirable object, during their long and severe winters, is said to be completely effected, by only throwing over them a thin linen cloth before the approach of frost, when the fruit beneath is never injured, how severe soever the winter may happen to prove. Yet apples are there usually kept in a small apartment immediately beneath the roof of the house, particularly appropriated to that purpose, and where there is never any fire. This is a fact so well known, that the Americans are astonished it should appear at all wonderful, and they have some reason to be so, when it is considered that, throughout Germany, the same method of preserving fruit is universally practised; from whence, probably, it made its way to North America. It appears, that linen cloth only is used for this purpose: woollen cloth, in particular, having been experienced to prove ineffectual. There seems abundant reason to believe, that even potatoes might be protected from frost by some such simple expedient.

The New Family Receipt Book (1820), author Anon, compiled by John Murray publishers of London

It’s been dry and cold here in Manchester for most of the past week, and we have another frost warning forecast for tonight, tomorrow night and Sunday night as well.

Hopefully these will be the last frosts of the season (the forecast is looking better from the 12th onwards), although there’s always a risk of more. All it would take is one more weather front sweeping down from the Arctic in a couple of weeks and, without a whole lot of horticultural fleece – or linen cloth, although the article above is talking about protecting apples still on the tree at the end of the season, rather than the blossom at this time of year; a linen cloth might be too heavy and damage the blooms – the whole year’s pear crop in particular could be wiped out. Any frosts or hailstorms in later April or early May and that’s the apples done for as well.

Fingers crossed it stays a milder, and perhaps a little wetter, instead.

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