GROSVENOR Garden Centre’s Apple Weekend was a great success as visitors embraced the British apple and joined the centre, local villages and schools, Eaton Estate and The Chester Grosvenor and Spa to enjoy the event.
A village masterchef competition saw Christine Emerson from Aldford, Chris Talbot from Eccleston and Rachel Gunnery from Saighton compete against each other for the coveted title and a winner’s hamper.
The winner was Christine from Aldford with her starter course of filo baskets with brie, caramelised apple and onion with apple crisps and roasted clove of garlic.
Rachel from Saighton had the hard task of completing a complicated recipe within the allotted time slot of one hour with pork sausages in honey, mustard and apple with potatoes, leeks, broccoli, apples and walnuts topped with a cheese sauce and coated with breadcrumbs.
And Chris from Eccleston completed the three-course meal with two fruit pies – one made using Bramley apples and the second with the addition of fresh blackberries.
Simon Radley, Michelin-starred chef from The Chester Grosvenor and Spa, judged the competition alongside Scott Whitelam, cafe manager at the garden centre.
“It was a very difficult decision as all courses were equally tasty but the delicious caramelised apples on Christine’s filo baskets were particularly inspired,” said Simon.
The head gardener of Eaton Estate, Les Armstrong, proved a popular draw to the garden centre as he offered advice on growing apple trees and was able to identify unknown varieties of apples already growing in local gardens.
“I have been completely taken aback by the number of visitors requesting my advice and it has been a joy to see a few varieties of apples that I have never seen before,” said Les.
“I will be researching any left unidentified and contacting everybody with my findings over the coming days.”
Visitors were invited to try their hand at apple pressing using a traditional press, and took part in a longest apple peel competition, with the winning peel measuring an amazing 429cm. The winner was delighted to win a £50 garden centre voucher.
There were prizes for the younger visitors too, with a ‘Find Annie Apple’ competition and a Grosvenor chocolate bar for any child visiting the garden centre in apple fancy dress.
With nature activities, storytelling and face-painting taking place throughout the weekend, together with music from Abbey Gate and Eccleston school choirs and the City of Chester Band on Sunday, visitors were entertained as they sampled juicy apples and enjoyed tastings in the food department, pork burgers and sausages from the barbecue and a choice of apple desserts in the cafe.
“The weekend was a great success with a fantastic response from the local community and the villages of Aldford, Eccleston and Saighton receiving an overwhelming number of apples toward their village juice appeal,” said Iain Wylie, managing director. “In fact, each of the two crates provided for each village were already full by Saturday evening.
“Our Apple Weekend has seen a great number of visitors to the garden centre this weekend, which has helped to create a real sense of community spirit. I am delighted that, by continuing to work with the local community, Apple Weekend was even bigger and better than last year.
“We are providing a source of information and advice for anyone wishing to grow their own apple trees and inspiration for producing delicious meals with their own homegrown apples too.
“Growing your own fruit not only reduces food miles but the produce is fresher and tastier too.”