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A celebration of apples



So, with Autumn comes Apple day - an excellent and ongoing celebration of all things appley. A visit to our best local event is always enjoyable with the added bonus of being able to buy very unusual varieties of, not just apples, but pears, melons and lots of other locally grown fruit.
Considering the vast display of beautifully coloured and gorgeous tasting apples, it is always amazing that there is so little that can be regularly bought in shops.

I have to admit that as well as fermented grape juice, apples are also another, small obsession!


Agree about apples…brilliant fruit.
Unfortunately the supermarkets are the reason for not being able to buy a wide variety. They need, and will only deal in, large quantities and perfect apples! The excuse “it’s what the customer wants” is just PR fluff to hide the major economics behind the supply and sale.
If you are fortunate to live near an apple area, then there are riches at thus time of year. My local greengrocers…yes plural…have currently 14 varieties on offer between them, plus quince, pears, and medlar. The market has various types of fruit turned into preserves. Several towns have either an apple day, or a cider festival…Cider apples tend to be different varieties than the normal ‘cooker or eater’. National Trust, and other heritage sites hold public pressings and some are fortunate enough to have orchards with some very old and unusual varieties.



Excellent subject, @VinoVeritas and @Ludlow_Steve.

To add a few more suggestions.

  1. The national fruit tree collection is held at Brogdale Farm (Near Faversham, Kent). They have a fruit shop and a plant nursery, and you can tour the orchards. Worth a day out. We nearly lost this treasure due to privatisation, but fortunately it was saved and is still with us.

  2. There is also a large fruit tree collection at the RHS garden (Wisley, Surrey) - entry free if you are an RHS member. During the fruit season they usually have some unusual varieties of fruits to buy at the shop.

  3. Several years ago, there was a programme to rid many of the old historic varieties from accumulated viruses etc., and micropropagate them. Their progeny can be obtained now from various fruit nurseries, so we are in a fortunate position of being able to grow healthier trees than times gone by.

  4. Years ago, there were areas all over the country which specialised in fruit growing - important ones included Gloucestershire/Herefordshire - others were Kent, Essex/Suffolk, around Pershore (Worcs.) and the Scottish Borders, but honestly there were many more. It’s surprising how much still goes on if you look. As @Ludlow_Steve recommends, look out for various apple (and other fruit) festivals locally. @VinoVeritas’s pics give a good idea of the sort of fruit displayed, and often you can taste different varieties.

  5. Yes, it can become a bit of an obsession! But it’s really only an extension of a healthy interest in what we can grow, and its variety, which far exceeds what the supermarkets offer.


Back in 1929, a gentleman nurseryman and epicure by the name of Edward Bunyard published a little book called “The Anatomy of Dessert”. It is an erudite exploration of what varieties of fruit have the best flavours and when, but there is much else there about fruit too. It’s very readable as a book and I can recommend it strongly to fruit lovers. In fact it is quite evocative of a byegone age anyway, and even if you are not (yet) a fruit fanatic, it’s well worth a recommendation from me. It is not a gardening book.

He released a second edition in 1933 with a few added notes on wines. Penguin reprinted this edition quite recently, so it shouldn’t be too hard to track a copy down.

That photo right up the top of this thread - of Orleans reinette, reminded me that Bunyard writes -
…for those who incline to the “dry” in food or drink, Orleans Reinette is an apple meet for their purpose, rich and mellow, and as a background for an old port it stands solitary and unapproachable.

You may not think that a fresh apple would consort well with a vintage port, but when ripened and matured (say in early December), this one does very well.

By the way, that photo seems to show an interesting mutation of the variety - the normal variety has a more brownish colouration rather than red (with about half the apple covered in russetting, which is what defines a reinette).


Very true, in Essex the fruit farms were in danger of disappearing but fortunately much has survived.
As to the disappearing varieties that supermarkets don’t or will not stock, it doesn’t totally add up the large quantities perfect form argument, they have no trouble selling many more varieties with and without blemishes in continental supermarkets and ours do sell short season fruits like Scottish raspberries and British cherries so there is something wrong here and this year the fruit growers, apples in particular have had a huge crop, we should be seeing those on sale generally.

To see on supermarket shelves during the peak UK apple season, varieties coming in from the southern hemisphere really annoys me especially as they are picked and treated in a way that most taste of wet cardboard.
Brogdale etc I have mentioned before and fully endorse for anyone interested or in that area.

The Reinette may not be a mutation many varieties change colour according to the type of season, this year my own apples are very obviously looking different to previous seasons, even soil and site can make small differences and even identical varieties on the same rootstock can look remarkably different in different sites.
The russets in my garden were a lot redder and had a lot more russetting this year, plus in the myriad of versions of one variety many are the same having different names but having been breed using the same parents but in a different order at a different time, that applies throughout the plant breeding world, today with lab breeding no.


You are probably right, @cerberus - 2018 is probably too atypical a year to make such comments definitively.

Even so, I do grow Orleans reinette myself, and it showed no reddening this year. Yet it was next door to my Bramley, which has turned out a load of flamboyantly coloured fruit this year -

(Bramley’s seedling)

Only the owner of the tree could say for sure - sometimes these things depend on available nutrients etc. But it makes the Orleans reinette quite an eye-catching apple, whatever the cause.


Its true that here on the Essex/Suffolk border there were vast acres of apple orchards. Now little remains. Copella in nearby Stoke have planted lots in resent years, but most have been ripped up

My village Langham is famous for the discovery apple. My friend has what is claimed as the first ever tree in his garden and had to build his extension around it. There are no other orchards in the village where once was little else.


Thats sad to hear Russ, when we lived in the area they were grubbing up lots of fruit orchards but it seemed to stop, obviously over time more have gone.
Copella have at least made a success of their apple juices and I believe there is a hotel there now, Stoke by Nayland used to have a very good restaurant, the Crown I think , it had a Michelin star in its early days but I believe it changed hands and lost that, that may be before your time.

Ian, I mentioned before about Rev Wilkes the cooker/desert apple that is normally a pale yellow green, but it some years it does have a red flush, which when I saw for the first time completely threw me, I did not believe it was the same apple, whatever we all desreve to see a lot more of these lovely varieties in the shops.
An oddity appeared in my garden this year, for whatever reason the previous owners planted a couple of trees and a Philadelphus close together and they crowd each other out, a large display appeared in July amongst the foliage and it was a yellow gage, first time I had seen fruit and they were delicious, something else you see little of these days.


Re your comment on Quinces, I had a client in central London the head of a banking family who will not be named, and there was a beautiful Quince tree in full fruit in the garden, enormous fruits.
The lady of the house said they never knew what to do with them and anyone who wanted them could have them.
I had no idea either and the wife working full time then certainly wasn’t into the jam making mode, but my old mum who was alive then lived a mile away and I took a load to her and she made the tart you mentioned with them , lovely the whole family got one each.

And back to Italy, we were told about this restaurant that is in the middle of nowhere when passing from Parma to Mantua, they do seasonal specialities through out the seasons and when we went there as can be seen from the link it was everything was Zucca and the tart from that was superb, a one off place worth a detour if in the area.


Fascinating stuff.

I suppose one factor which may have a bearing on the area of apples grown is the modern technique of intensive cultivation using dwarfing rootstocks. I don’t have the figures to hand (do you know them?) but the yield of usable fruit must be several times that of back when they were grown as big orchard trees that took years to come into bearing.

I’m with you on gages too - you still see various types of greengages for sale, but green seems to be the only colour. I have Coe’s Golden Drop (yellow) and Count Althann’s Gage (purple) - both reasonably free-fruiting if I can keep the birds away.


The Crown doesn’t have a star now, but is a very good restaurant/pub with a wine list the envy of many London places. They have a fine wine list with very small mark ups and a glass cellar room. They have rooms too, but the hotel you’re thinking of might be at the Golf club, it has all the leisure/spa stuff.


Good, at least something survives that is worthwhile.

And I remember when they built the hotel golf course, you have jogged the old grey matter, how is Coggeshall the murder capital of Essex and famous for the death O f Peter Langham who opened a restaurant there that was engulfed in a fire in which he died, Langham was famous for his Langhams Brasserie in Mayfair where he would appear totally drunk and insult everyone and then be sick at his table, Michael Caine was the co owner, notorious times.

nothing to do with apples but a bit of what was local history.


I was thinking to myself the other day that I can’t remember the last time I ate a discovery - must have eaten 100s as a kid in Suffolk, but I just don’t see them around now. What a shame!


We are entering geek territory again, this is a short explanation of plantings with different rootstock…there are better but they involve govt readings, snooze job…


the advantages are obvious quicker to fruiting age more fruit per acre denser planting and easier to pick, disadvantges are a much shorter fruiting and tree life span, so replanting is normally done when first signs of crop shrinkage occur, law of diminishing returns.


Haven’t been to Coggeshall much lately. The restaurant is still going under another name, had it recommended recently. Peter Watts wine is just on the outskirts and there a vineyard which does tastings etc. Should go really.



I used to drive regularly across to Kent to visit my mother who lived in Kent. To get to her village, a had to pass through a number of commercial apple orchards. I was intrigued to see them replanting one field (after letting it lie fallow for a couple of years) with young plants grown on an intensive wire system, as per the picture in the link below. It’s an Australian site, but I guess the figures are true universally.
Apple target yields

I was amazed to see a reasonable crop on the trees in their second year, and I think that is the key - big trees take forever to come into bearing, and can take up to 20 years before they even fill their allotted space. The tables of yields by planting density in that paper are very instructive.


I’m guessing from your enthusiastic description that you’re not from Ambridge, where Apple Day this year sounded like a massive anti-climax.


Ah, but Inkberrow the Worcestershire village ‘supposed’ to be Ambridge is in Apple growing country, and this year us a good harvest.
Driving around you get stuck behind tractors with enormous trailers full of apples destined for cider…the aroma of fermentation already wafting into the car! Earlier we had hops , later potatoes.
(Or beer, cider and vodka)


@Ghost-of-Mr-Tallis I have yet to visit either Brogdale or Wisley - something I hope to rectify sometime soon. The book you mention sounds really good - I shall look out for a copy.
A strongly flavoured, ripe and rich apple sounds quite a nice match with Port - I must try it this winter, with some nuts alongside, perhaps.


I absolutely love quinces, but it’s one of those rare fruits, unless you happen to know someone with their own tree.