The na­ture of things

English ap­ples

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by

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

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