The nature of things
ALTHOUGH apples begin their season in August, they’re not for serious consideration until September, the early-20th-century epicure and fruit expert Edward Bunyard advised us. Early-season apples ‘are adolescents, cheery young folk whose fresh and sprightly juice is welcome during their short visit. Let us gather them from the tree as we take our garden walks, for with the earliest, such as Irish Peach and St Everard, only a few days in the fruit room will rob them of their chief qualities, crispness and juice’.
We might think of apples as such an English thing—and they are—but their origin has been traced to eastern Asia, where Kazakhstan borders China. The Romans introduced sweet apples to Britain, although the Normans brought fine French varieties after the Conquest. The 18th to the 20th centuries saw the great flowering of English apple breeding, the mildness and dampness of our climate proving ideal.
The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale, Kent, cultivates some 1,900 varieties in a lively sounding cast that includes ancient Catshead (top left), nutty Egremont Russet (bottom left), the unsurpassable cooker Bramley’s Seedling (top right), reliable Peasgood’s Nonsuch, Porter’s Perfection (bred for Somerset cider), streaky Maltster, sweet and early Feltham Beauty and its parent, the unimpeachable Cox’s Orange Pippin (top centre). KBH
Illustration by Bill Donohoe