Apples are the most sociable fruit. Bobbing up and down in water they are ducking apples used by kids for Halloween games.
If fruit trees are inherited in a garden there’s often story to dig up from the past.
New varieties pop up in old gardens all the time!
One of the joys of growing your own fruit is that you get to eat things that are not in the shop.
The windfalls rotting in my own garden remind me of the story of an apple first found in Nottingham.
And this is what happened on a recent journey.
As a self appointed plant historian this month I dig deeper at a Nottinghamshire village to find the chance of eating something I cannot find in the supermarket.
The Bramley Apple, shared below, along with the curiously fruity Orange Apple were found in the Victorian era but in different places and tell stories with very different endings.
The first Bramley’s Seedling tree grew from pips planted by Mary Ann Brailsford when she was a young girl in her garden in Southwell, Nottinghamshire in 1809. The tree in the garden was later included in the purchase of the cottage of a local butcher, Matthew Bramley in 1846. Whilst a street has now been named ‘Bramley’ to honour the discovery this region of England is more famous for its Robin Hood legend.
Behind the Nottingham story of Robin Hood I discovered a deeper story about apples.
The story of the ‘Bleinheim Orange’ apple is a good one >>
This apple has a greenish-yellow to orange skin streaked with red. Its fruit has a distinctive nutty flavour. Its tree grows higher than 30 feet tall.
The Blenheim Orange does not hold it’s shape and goes into a fine puree as it cooks.
A tailor named George Kempster planted the original kernel of the apple and it was known locally as Dempster’s Pippin which was catalogued in about 1818. It was found at Woodstock in Oxfordshire near the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough. It thereafter spread through England to Europe and America.
So there’s no danger of running out varieties if you grow your own. This is not about being a survivalist unless of course you are good at storing apples inside a crate in a dark shed. If so they can then be stored until March.
In theory you can grow all sorts of varieties on one tree. Each branch could be a new variety. The way you do this is to cut a bud off the variety you want as a thin slice and create a space for this on the branch of the existing tree. Root grafting tape, a bit like cling film, can bind it together. It is a simple job but also a fine art to get the graft to line up and fuse.
Apple trees are very accommodating, they also let you graft together a branch from one variety onto the roots of another. This is like putting a motor of a Rolls Royce inside a Mini Cooper car to give a preferred variety a bit of a boost. So search out new varieties that are the spice of life and go for the crunch!
This isn’t something I have tried. But growing them is. We inherited three trees in our garden. The win for us is that they are ready to eat now as long as they are hand picked before slugs get them on the ground. Just gently twisting the apple and checking if it falls off easily is the trick to know if it is ripe, regardless of what the apple looks like.
When prepping plants from a supplier don’t forget to give them a good drink first before your plant them.
Whilst the Victorian Bramley is more popular than the Blenheim Orange Apple, there are still lots of unheard of varieties of Apple even if in the supermarket it looks like there are only three types to eat.
It’s great to pick a favourite and grow your own and one of the keys if you’re starting out is to prepare your soil so that there are no dandelion weeds.
Perhaps this combination of confidence and self sufficiency during Queen Victoria’s reign characterises why she enjoyed one of the longest reigns of a monarch before Elizabeth II celebrated her Sapphire Anniversary this week. Queen Victoria kept pretenders off the throne and definitely had the ability to please the people and hold onto her power.
The discovery and spread of this plant as a variety for all fits into the mood of Victorian times. The new delicacy does spell out the exotic tastes people were looking to satisfy in their life that also lead up to the austerity the population would face during of the two Great Wars of the 20th Century.
The inspiring story of the Bramley tree family is the essence of this. The Bramley story fits with the Victorian ethos of self sufficiency. A young girl in her solitude noticed an apple tree in Nottingham was growing and doing better than normal. The original tree is still in the garden and the street is named Bramley. The story echoes the world Victorians created for themselves just like the people behind the Bramley,
Apples are in deed the social fruit found in bowls to welcome visitors on coffee tables may have a story to tell the next time you take one from your neighbours display!
This is how the plant grows in solitude. I don’t know if I will have this amount of luck with my own trees! Find more stories on solitude here
I have recently become a bit of garden geek and have made some funky recipe ideas from a (very) small allotment on fab fruits to juice apples with check out my guide here bit.ly/topjuices