2013 was a bumper year for apples in Scotland and a great time to launch Portobello Apple.
Inspired by the Slow Food Movement and a love of apple juice making we liked the idea of getting more local people to drink more locally produced juice.
And what a perfect place to do it! It is not always appreciated what a perfect climate East Scotland offers to Malus domestica, our well known apple tree. The winters are cold enough and the summers dry and sunny enough for most apple varieties. Even more tender English types will flourish in a walled garden; on our travels around Portobello gardens we found a 180 year old Tom Putt which some books say cannot grow in Scotland. John Butterworth, the well known organic apple tree grower, has personally counted 65 varieties growing happily in Scotland. Indeed in Edinburgh alone he calculates that hiding quietly in all its gardens there is a 140 hectare orchard equivalent to 140,000 apple trees!
Portobello Apple is a local network effectively linking supplier with consumer. We identified 12 gardens with unwanted apples and pears, picked them all by hand (no windfalls for us), washed them back at our walled garden in Portobello, crushed them in an electric mill, pressed them by hand, filtered and stored the juice overnight, then bottled and pasteurised it. With a bit of blending we finally produced 250 bottles containing 7 different blends of juice from around 25 apple varieties. Hard work but still a labour of love!
Local artists designed funky labels and a local printer printed them at cost price.
Portobello Apple is non profit-making. Some of our lovely looking juice was given to our suppliers as payment in kind and some to friends who supported the project. However most we were able to sell for charity at outdoor stalls with proceeds going to Portobello Community Orchard and PEDAL. We wanted to donate more but by December we had run out!
For us this was a successful start to a long held dream. What moved us most was the evident reservoir of good will in to which we tapped.
We intend to grow. Even in poor harvests it is clear that there are plentiful supplies of the raw material. Our challenge is to find the apples and orchards in Portobello. The juice was a great advertisement. If anyone has spare apples or pears (or there is a local charity looking for donations) we encourage them to contact us at portobelloapple@mcculloch.