Alys Fowler

Ap­ple days

The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents -

I have eaten hun­dreds of ap­ple va­ri­eties, yet there are only a hand­ful I can taste from mem­ory, whose flavour I can in­stantly con­jure: Blen­heim Or­ange (pic­tured left and bot­tom) is one of them.

I loved it from the first bite. It has a plain, sweet taste at first, then a dis­tinct nut­ti­ness ap­pears. As it ages, the tex­ture crum­bles to some­thing you’d never find in a su­per­mar­ket. It’s an ad­dic­tive ap­ple, made for eat­ing with cheese, but also for cook­ing, keep­ing its shape per­fectly with those com­plex nutty flavours ris­ing to the fore.

It makes a strong-limbed, vig­or­ous tree that needs to be grown on MM106 (semi-dwarf­ing) or M9 (dwarf­ing) root­stock for most gar­dens. Mine can’t be more than seven years old, yet it waves its top ap­ples at my front bed­room win­dow.

I re­alise that ap­ples are not an ob­vi­ous choice for your front gar­den: there will al­ways be spoiled fruit tum­bling over the pave­ment to pick up; some­one will com­plain it’s a haz­ard; your ap­ples will get scrumped and some­times spat out in hor­ror. On the other hand, ap­ples love to be pruned, and this means you can keep it at the size that you need.

I’m not sure I’d want to eat ap­ples from a very busy road, but the trees are pol­lu­tion tol­er­ant; also, stud­ies show that pol­lu­tants in the soil don’t end up in the fruit, unlike black­ber­ries or rasp­ber­ries. You’ll need to wash the fruit, of course, but if you want to grow edi­bles in your front gar­den they’re an ideal choice. Ap­ples are easy bed­fel­lows; there are plenty of wood­land types that will grow at their feet; mine has a frill of Ja­panese anemones, ferns and Ja­panese for­est grass.

In the next month or so, bare-root ap­ples will start to be­come avail­able; you can buy a tree for less than £20, and nearly all nurs­eries do mail order (ex­pect about £16 for car­riage). I have never met a fruit grower who’s not happy to talk through root­stock (which de­ter­mines the over­all height of tree), pol­li­na­tion groups (to en­sure a good crop, you need an ap­ple of the same group nearby), or the best va­ri­ety for you.

There are about 3,000 types of Bri­tish ap­ples, and there’s a va­ri­ety for ev­ery lo­ca­tion in the coun­try (you can use the Fruit Fin­der at ptes.org/cam­paigns/tra­di­tional-or­chard-project/ fruitfinder to lo­cate yours). Try an ap­ple day; buy some­thing lo­cal or fall for a bril­liant name, such as the Bloody Plough­man (pic­tured cen­tre) or the Pig’s Nose Pip­pin. If you re­ally can’t choose, buy a Blen­heim Or­ange, and save some of your ap­ples to eat with Stil­ton cheese on Christ­mas Day. I prom­ise you, you won’t be dis­ap­pointed

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