The Great British Apple

Posted on 28 September, 2018

Apples are one of the nation's favourite fruits and it's not just because of their flavour and widespread availability! 

The health and nutritional benefits of eating apples has been undisputed for hundreds of years and the age old saying, 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away!', doesn't come unfounded. In fact, the Great British Apple is perfect for a mid-morning snack, topping up on fibre intake, quenching thirst, improving your gut health, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and even reducing the risk of lung cancers. What's more, weather conditions this year mean that apples are set to be tastier than ever!

The high rainfall and changeable weather here in Cumbria doesn't provide the perfect environment for growing apples but fortunately there are many varieties to choose from that will do well in this climate. Apples have been grown successfully here in Cumbria for as long as one can remember and these days it's becoming increasingly popular to have your own orchard. Perhaps it's a yearning to return to a more simple time when we produced our own food; a chance to get closer to a self sufficient lifestyle; or maybe it's the romantic connotation that's attached to growing your own. Whatever it may be, apples are one of the nation's favourite fruits and there are literally hundreds of different varieties to choose from!

Local Apple Heritage

While we may not have the commercial heritage that exists for apples that are grown in the south of the country, we do have our fair share of varieties that are specific to our local area. What follows is a brief selection of some of the apples originating in Cumbria and the dates of when they were very first recorded.

Autumn Harvest - an early cooker and dessert apple. Recorded as early as 1934 in Westmorland and is a very popular green autumn apple found in a lot of orchards.   
Bradley's Beauty - a late cooking variety first recorded in Witherslack. Relatively new, introduced in late 1990 as a dual purpose apple that is strong growing a very disease resistant.  
Carlisle Codlin - an early cooking variety from Cumberland. First recorded in 1830, this autumn apple turns very yellow in colour and is very greasy. 
Churn Lid - an early cooking apple that's flat and local to Cumbria.  
Duke of Devonshire - a variety of dessert apple originating from Holker Hall as early as 1835. This is a late apple that will often keep until February.  
Fallbarrow Favourite - an early, local cooking variety.  
Forty Shilling - a dessert variety originating in Carlisle; first recorded in the early 1800's.  
Greenup's Pippin - a bright red and yellow autumn cooking apple originating from Keswick as early as the 1700's.  
Holmes Catshead - a mid-season cooking variety, originating from the Lyth Valley.  
Keswick Codlin - an early cooking variety originating in Ulverston in the 1790's; a yellow, soft apple that tends not to keep too long.  
Lancashire Pippin - discovered in 1950, this mid-season apple is ideal for cooking and originates from Westmorland.   
Longstart - a mid-season cooker/dessert apple originating from Westmorland and first recorded in 1851.  
Nelson's Favourite - a mid-season cooking apple originating from Kendal in 1958.  
Rank Thorn - one of the earliest mid-season dessert apples, found locally in old orchards on trees dating back over 100 years.  
Taylor's Favourite - a mid-season cooking apple originating from the Lyth Valley.  
Wheaten Loaves - an early cooking apple also originating from the Lyth Valley.

What Determines a Good Apple Crop?

For a good apple crop, it's essential that we have a mild spring when there's plenty of insects about for pollination. Unfortunately this year, the late spring means that it's unlikely to be a bumper apple crop. All is not lost though, the heatwave and long periods of sunshine experienced at key times during this year means that this season, British apples are set to be the tastiest and most colourful that they've been all century. 

What is Grafting?

Grafting is a horticultural technique used to join parts from two or more plants so that they appear to grow as a single plant. In grafting, the upper part (scion) of one plant grows on the root system (rootstock) of another plant. Taking cuttings from apple trees is extremely difficult so most apple trees are grafted. Many think that you can just plant a seed and your apple tree will grow but if you do this, then you won't actually grow an apple tree of the same variety; it will be pollinated by another apple tree which will result in a cross between the two. Therefore grafting is the only way to determine the apple tree variety that you grow.

What is Pollination?

The subject of pollination is often made unnecessarily complicated. In order to set fruit, apple trees require pollinating.  Most situations provide good pollen due to the close proximity of other gardens so it's not always necessary to have other pollinators if bees and pollinating insects are generous with their visits.

Some varieties are self-fertile which means they are capable of setting their own fruit. Others will require a different cultivar that flowers at the same time. 

Where possible, we would recommend planting two different apple trees in the same pollination groups within 60ft of each other. An exception to the rule is a triploid such as Bramley's Seedling. Triploids are poor pollinators for any other variety and should be accompanied by two other non-triploid varieties that will also pollinate each other, or one variety that is self fertile.

If you're confused by all of this, then don't worry - our experts are always on hand to help.

Recommended Apple Trees for Novices

If you're a total beginner and you're not sure where to start, then we recommend that you try the following:

Charles Ross - good because this variety can be used for cooking as well as eating. It's self fertile, easy to grow and will store through until December.
Keswick Codlin - also good because this variety can be used for cooking as well as eating. This apple exists from our local heritage and cooks to a juicy cream froth and puree which hardly needs sugar. Very heavy cropping and good for making jelly.
Scrumptious - a really tasty eating variety. Named for its wonderful flavours and carefully bred and selected for our garden conditions. A mid-season variety suitable for planting in all areas of the UK. It is self fertile, frost hardy when in flower, thin skinned for children and can be eaten straight from the tree at any time during September.

Varieties Available from 13th October 2018

Apple tree varieties that we will have available for our Apple Weekend on 13th and 14th October are listed below. All of the apple trees that we will be stocking this year, have been chosen because they grow really well in the north of England.

Adam's Pearmain - a distinctive late apple with attractive lenticel spots, red-brown skin and a rich, aromatic, nutty flavour. An excellent keeper.
Ashmead's Kernel - pale green aromatic fruit with strong, sweet-sharp, intense, acid drop flavour. Firm white flesh. Beautiful flowers.
Bardsey - The 'sainted' apple found on Bardsey Island. This pink over cream skinned, lemon scented apple has a fine refreshing flavour and cooks well without sugar.
Blenheim Orange - Yellow/gold fruit has an orange flush and a few red stripes. Nutty taste, sweet crumbly texture. An old favourite - cooks, eats and keeps well. When bake dit keeps its shape and will produce a thick puree.
Bloody Ploughman - an old variety which reputably grew from the pip of a ploughman shot by a gamekeeper for stealing. Very red and ribbed in appearance. Cooking and cider preferred to eating fresh.
Bountiful - Cox's Orange pippin x Lane's Prince Albert. Soft juicy fruit which is light and sweet when cooked. Slices retain their shape. A good garden tree.
Bramley 20 - a small and compact version of Bramley's Seedling - 20% less vigorous with heavier crops. highly recommended for the garden especially if grown on M27 dwarf rootstock to create the perfect mini Bramley.
Christmas Pippin - An exceptional, high quality eating experience - the 'new garden Cox' but unlike this classic vintage variety Christmas Pippin will produce reliable heavy crops nationwide. As well as being easy to grow this apple has a fine dense texture with a melt in the mouth characteristic that makes each bite increasingly more pleasurable. The sweet and aromatic flavour has a lovely perfume with a very pleasant honey aftertaste.
Bramley's Seedling - The finest cooker in the world! Green to greenish-yellow with a strong acid flavour.
Charles Ross - An easy to grow sweet flavoured eating variety which bakes well. 
Core Blimey - A wonderfully aromatic, juicy and crisp, highly flavoured Cox type that's easier to grow.
Coul Blush - A golden coloured variety with a sweet, creamy flesh.
Cox Self Fertile - Highly recommended for areas where it's not ideal to grow Cox i.e. the north. Heavy crops of the best eating apple in the world!
James Grieve - Red flush stripes over pale green. Crisp and juicy with an excellent flavour! A reliable cropper that's deservedly popular.
Discovery - Crisp and juicy bright red variety that has a hint of strawberry flavour. A super dessert apple with excellent disease resistance.
Eden - A cooking/dessert apple that's similar to a Bramley when cooked. A non-browning variety that's also good for juicing.
Egremont Russet - Sweet and firm eating apple; the flesh is cream, tinged yellow and has a rich nutty flavour.
Ellison's Orange - A red and juicy eating apple with an aniseed flavour. Scab resistant.
Fiesta - A rich, aromatic apple that's sweet and crisp. Excellent garden tree that crops heavily.
Galloway Pippin - A large yellow cooking apple that keeps its shape well when cooked.
Greensleeves - A reliable mid-season variety that's crisp, tangy and easy to grow. A really good pollinator for other varieties.
Herefordshire Russet - An exceptional eating apple that has a rich aromatic flavour.
Howgate Wonder - An eating and cooking apple with a light taste. Quite sweet and juicy.
Katy - Heavy crops of bright red, early fruit with sweet, juicy, acid, firm flesh. Excellent for fresh juice and even cider. A good pollinator.
Keswick Codlin - Dual purpose local Cumbrian apple (more information above).
Kidd's Orange Red - A good alternative to Cox, sweet, crisp and aromatic.
Laxton's Superb - Possesses similar qualities to Cox and is a good all round sweet and aromatic eating apple that does well in colder, more exposed areas. This variety can become biennial bearing.
Limelight - A neat, compact tree that produces fruit that is crisp, refreshing and disease resistant. Crops abundantly and produces a clean, smooth eating apple that seems to glow when ripe.
Lord Derby - an excellent quality cooking apple. Large, firm, attractive, green fruit with a distinctive ribbed angular shape. Good for pies.
Newton Wonder - A dual purpose apple that keeps well. Cooks to a juicy, mild puree. Makes a fruity eating apple if left later in the season.
Red Devil - This variety is one of our favourites, it's perfect for the garden, grows well in all areas and produces a good quality eating apple that has a red stained flesh, and a superb fruity strawberry flavour. Disease resistant.
Red Falstaff - A good eating apple that's fruity, well balanced, crisp and juicy. A heavy yielding variety that's frost resistant and self fertile.
Red Windsor - A very heavy cropping eating apple that has a Cox type flavour. Compact, good garden variety that has good disease and frost resistance.
Reverend W. Wilks - Compact trees that produce enormous fruit which bake superbly. Cooks to a light, sweet, pale, lemon puree. Hardly needing any sugar. The best early cooker.
Rosette - a relatively new dessert apple with a lovely pink speckled 'rosette' pattern that runs deep throughout the flesh. A compact , heavy cropping variety that's perfect for even the smallest of gardens. Crisp, juicy textured fruit with a raspberry flavour.
Scotch Bridget - ribbed with a cream, crisp flesh. A dual purpose apple that's a favourite in the Hereford and Worcester area.
Scotch Dumpling - a large apple that cooks to a well flavoured frothy puree. Very attractive pink flowers.
Scrumptious - self fertile, frost hardy and ca be eaten straight from the tree. Literally scrumptious, hence the name!
Stirling Castle - a large heavy cropping cooking apple that cooks to a sharp, light puree with lots of flavour.
Sunset - An excellent garden apple that's perfect for eating and crops heavily. Has a distinctive, sharp intense flavour.
Surprize - A fairly new variety of apple that is good for eating and juicing. This large fruit produces a sweet/sharp flavour.
Tickled Pink Baya - A good well balanced apple with a mild aromatic flavour. Perfect for eating or cooking - excellent for drying, adding to salads and very high in antioxidants. Excellent cooking properties ensure that when this apple is cooked it produces a lovely pink coloured apple stew.
Winter Gem - This strong growing eating apple consistently wins flavour tests and is of an exceptional quality. It needs good pollination though. Rich and aromatic with a pink flush.
Worcester Pearmain - a very sweet eating apple that has a firm juicy flesh with a strong strawberry flavour. Best when ripened on the tree and just before it falls off.

>> Read our guide to choosing the right fruit tree