A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.
Our friend Phil went on a tree grafting course and the result was this apple sapling, variety Walthamstow Wonder. Never heard of it? No, neither had I. That’s because it’s a newly discovered variety and my little twig is one of only a handful in existence. Its mother tree was found growing in an old lady’s garden in Walthamstow and extensive investigations to discover what it was were, shall we say, fruitless – though the tree itself bore much fruit, delicious apples with juicy, pink-tinged flesh.
Phil grafted a scion from the old lady’s tree onto crab apple rootstock and the graft took. Unluckily for him but luckily for us, he doesn’t have space for it in his own garden so he gave it to us. I really think that if there are people on this earth whose innate beneficence matches the boundless generosity of cooks, it’s gardeners. Just as I’ve seldom visited the house of a keen cook without coming home with lovingly wrapped leftovers or at the very least a new recipe, so I’ve seldom said goodbye to a keen gardener without a few cuttings or seeds tucked into my bag.
So here I am with my rare specimen. I am delighted and terrified in equal measure. It needs to stay in a pot for a couple of years before it can be planted out and in that time, I have the onerous responsibility of protecting it from drought and flood, scorching sun and withering frost, pests and pets. But I’m thrilled. Is there any human activity more optimistic than planting a tree? Any more profound demonstration of trust in a benevolent future? My Walthamstow Wonder may be little more than a twig but – in its 20 or so leaves – I spy spring mornings sparkling with frothy blossom and autumn afternoons fragrant with pink-tinged pies, tarts and crumbles.