Laura is a bit of a star! Laura is our crab apple tree and, no, we have not named her! Laura is simply the variety … but it has caused confusion on a number of occasions!
We chose and planted Laura about 8 years ago having been inspired to plant a crab apple tree by a friend’s jelly made from the very popular John Downie crab apple. We weren’t entirely sure if we wanted to make jelly and we were also concerned that at John Downie could get too big in our garden. So we decided to research alternative varieties.
We wanted to keep our options open with regards to the jelly making but we also wanted attractive blossom in the spring and ideally autumn colour – not much then! For jelly making, you need to plant a variety that will produce sensible sized fruits. You cannot, for example, easily make jelly from a tree that produces crab apples the size of a grape! When we discovered Laura, she sounded perfect with dark red fruits about the size of a ping-pong ball. The lovely thing about dark red fruits is that you also get dark red jelly!
Laura has really flourished and every spring we enjoy her stunning deep pink and white flushed blossom and summer by summer she is getting more and more prolific so that we are literally picking bucket-loads of fruit!
Our jelly is made very traditionally using a recipe from a 1960s Good House Keeping cookery book but also following their hot tip which is to add about 3 cloves to the fruit when cooking. Any more than that would be overpowering but this just gives a slightly warm note to the overall flavour. I also highly recommend purchasing a jelly straining kit such as the one from Lakeland. The first year we tried this, I attempted to set up some Heath-Robinson style affair and, goodness me was it messy! My other hot tip is, do not forget to put your bowl underneath the strainer before pouring!! (Yes, that is the voice of experience …)
Of all the trees in our garden, I think it would be fair to say that it is Laura that gives us most pleasure. We enjoy looking at her, we enjoy eating the end product, and she has been a very easy plant to care for with just a little pruning required to keep her in tip-top shape and to ensure she continues to fruit well.