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