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The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

By 1989 Bram­ley’s share of the mar­ket had in­creased to 91 per cent but there had been a de­cline in the use of cook­ing ap­ples in the home, to­gether with com­pe­ti­tion from cheap ap­ples from abroad – from France in par­tic­u­lar. To coun­ter­act this, English grow­ers ini­ti­ated a pro­mo­tional cam­paign (bram­ley ap­ples.co.uk).

Adrian Bar­low, CEO of the English Ap­ple and Pear As­so­ci­a­tion, says: “To­day, we can­not ex­port Bram­leys as the va­ri­ety is al­most un­known out­side the UK and will not fit pro­cess­ing ma­chin­ery over­seas. So, the Bram­ley is more or less ex­clu­sive to the UK; else­where eat­ing ap­ples are used for cook­ing. We are unique in hav­ing a sin­gle-pur­pose culi­nary ap­ple. The Bram­ley will continue to dom­i­nate un­less a va­ri­ety with even bet­ter com­mer­cial qual­i­ties is de­vel­oped.”

A prob­lem for the in­dus­try is that ap­ple con­sump­tion con­tin­ues to de­cline, as con­sumers pre­fer snacks and choco­late. This is true of the to­tal con­sump­tion of fruit and veg­eta­bles, which is lit­tle more than half the rec­om­mended five por­tions a day.

He is also an ad­vo­cate of her­itage va­ri­eties, buy­ing them at farm­ers’ mar­kets and ap­ple days. “I love to bake with ‘Peas­good Non­such’ or ‘James Grieve’ or make ap­ple fool with ‘Grenadier’. I en­cour­age any­one to search out rarer va­ri­eties. Don’t worry about fancy cook­ing. Just bake and try them with a pot of cream, savour­ing the flavours un­til you find your favourite.”

Thank­fully, many old va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing cook­ers, are safe­guarded in her­itage col­lec­tions such as those at RHS Wis­ley, and the Na­tional Fruit Col­lec­tion at Brog­dale, Kent, which lists more than 2,000 dif­fer­ent ap­ples – 1,500 dessert and 400 culi­nary, among oth­ers. Im­por­tantly, around 740 her­itage va­ri­eties are cur­rently listed by spe­cial­ist nurs­eries, of which 183 are for cook­ing, and 16 of which hold the RHS Award of Gar­den Merit (AGM). See a few listed above.

“We are notic­ing a mod­est up­swing of in­ter­est in culi­nary ap­ples,” says Matthew Thomas of the fruit tree grower Frank P Matthews. “Cus­tomers are in­ter­ested in plant­ing lo­cal va­ri­eties in their own gar­dens or in community or­chards, and al­though Bram­ley is still the most pop­u­lar, ‘Lord Derby’, ‘Grenadier’, ‘Scotch Dumpling’ and ‘Rev­erend W Wilkes’ all have their fans.”

So while Bram­ley might rule un­chal­lenged, other play­ers from our il­lus­tri­ous past en­dure for the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of all.

Where to buy

Dea­con’s Nurs­ery, Isle of Wight (01983 840750; dea­con­snurs­eryfruits.co.uk)

Keep­ers Nurs­ery, Maid­stone, Kent (01622 726465; keep­ers-nurs­ery.co.uk)

Pomona Fruit, Wal­ton-On-The-Naze, Es­sex (0845 676 0607; pomon­afruits.co.uk)

Frank P. Matthew, Ten­bury Wells, Worcs (01584 812800; frankp­matthews.com)

Rich pick­ings: many va­ri­eties of cook­ing ap­ple were abun­dant be­fore the com­ing of the Bram­ley, in­set

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