A LEGACY PROJECT FOR A DISTINCTIVE LOCAL LANDSCAPE

Henry Johnson gives an insight to the Daylesford Foundation Heritage Orchard:

In 2010 the Daylesford Foundation planted a heritage orchard of forty eight apple trees on a small pasture at Daylesford Farm, Gloucestershire. The orchard has been created in the most traditional sense of the word – one containing a large variety of old English fruit varieties and with these varieties grafted onto vigorous rootstocks that will mature into large, spreading standard trees. This is a pattern of land use characteristic of a type of small-scale mixed farming that was predominant up to the Second World War.  During and after the war a push for food independency promoted widespread agricultural intensification and specialisation. Whilst that movement greatly improved the efficiency of our farming, it has also had a lasting impact on the look and feel of our countryside.  This modernisation resulted in the destruction of many traditional orchards and the loss of much of our native biodiversity. Unfortunately, these changes are still in motion.

We have found that much is to be gained from reconsidering the farming methods and techniques of the past.  England has a rich fruit growing heritage and almost three thousand apple varieties to show for it. We are the only country that has traditionally made a distinction between culinary apples and desert and cider apples, with traditional farm orchards often containing a mix of the three. Planting trees that produce fruit at different times and for different purposes provided an invaluable resource for a household, with the associated knowledge of how to propagate, use and store fruit passed down through generations. Much of this knowledge barely survives and as varieties are lost, so the distinctive local palette of flavours is reduced. The average British experience of orchards and apples stretches no further than the expectation of year round, unblemished supermarket fruit from a handful of varieties grown around the world. The traditional English orchard lies unkempt and unused; still a haven for wildlife that has been sanitised out of the surrounding landscape, but as the trees die they are not being replaced.

This is the inspiration for the legacy orchard and we are proud to be part of a new movement for traditional orchard conservation that has recently gathered pace. Our fruit growing heritage is being revived through the action of local orchard groups and organisations such as Natural England and the National Trust. The lonely last representatives of forgotten varieties are being tracked down by people like Charles Martell, re-grafted and preserved in ‘museum’ orchards. Traditional orchards have been recognised as fantastic places for biodiversity and were awarded a Biodiversity Action Plan ‘priority’ status in August 2007 by Natural England. Whilst many modern commercial fruit producers are amongst some of the most profligate users of insecticides and fungicides in farming, fruit grown in well established traditional orchards often suffers few disease problems. Growing produce within a varied and healthy ecosystem minimises pest outbreaks and produces food that tastes better – a central tenant of what is promoted at the Daylesford Foundation and the organic movement as a whole.

The heritage orchard provides an important educational aid through the year.  Fruit from the trees are shared and contribute to popular apple juicing demonstrations at local food festivals, Slow Food gatherings and farm open days.  We want the artisan skills of grafting, juice pressing and an appreciation of taste diversity to live on with the legacy orchard.

THE VARIETIES

Golden Spire (1850): Oddly mis-shapen apples with greeny yellow skin and creamy white flesh. Fresh taste with a little sharpness and a cidery back-taste. Can be cooked. Ready early September.

Crawley Beauty (c.1870): Pale yellow-green fruit partly flushed red-brown. White flesh tinged green. Late cooker/dessert. Ready mid-October. Waxy skin polishes well. Valued in the north for being late flowering (June) and therefore less prone to frost. Discovered in a cottage garden in Tilgate, near Crawley, Sussex.

Edward VII (1902): Fairly juicy, with an acid flavour. Has a firm, rather coarse texture. Reported to be an excellent cooking apple. Introduced by Rowe of Worcester in 1908. The apple received the RHS Award of Merit in 1903.

Northern Greening (1802): Popular small 19th century cooker. Ready December – April. A real keeper, often wasted by new orchard owners as they are hard and sour off the tree but if stored until Easter will mature beautifully.

Warner’s King (late 1700s): Sharp and very fruity. A late cooking apple of ‘preposterous size’. Ready late September. Renamed by Thomas Rivers (who received it as King Apple) after the Gosforth (Leeds) nursuryman who sent it to him. Very hardy tree often found in old Yorkshire and Lancashire orchards.

Lemon Pippin (pre-1700): Flavour and smell have a citrus quality. Small, yellow dotted fruit with greenish-white, crisp, acid flesh. Good for drying and dual-purpose. Ready early October but stores till April. Very old variety of English or Norman origin.

Yellow Ingestrie (c.1800): Mid-season dessert apple. Intense and brisk, sweet-sharp vinous flavour – the perfect apple for Christmas desserts. Ready mid to late-September. Raised by Thomas Knight probably at Elton Manor, Ludlow, Shropshire but named for Lord Talbot’s estate at Ingestrie Hall in Staffordshire. Beautiful slightly weeping tree.

Blenheim Orange (c.1740): A local late dessert apple of very great reputation. Sweetly nutty with a rather crumbly texture and a good flavour when cooked early in the season and a better flavour when ripened. Pick late September – early October and eat October – December/January. Produces fantastic, long lived and gnarly trees. Found by Mr Kempster on a boundary wall at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

Worcester Pearmain (1870s): A popular early-season English apple, sometimes with a strawberry flavour, the intensity of which is dependent on the weather during the ripening period. Ready in September. Possibly a seedling of Devonshire Quarrenden. Often used in breeding programmes to develop other early varieties e.g. Discovery. Still commercially grown on a small scale.

Devonshire Quarrenden (1676): Distinct strawberry flavour. Best eaten off the tree in August. Introduced in Devon and a real old English variety. The apples are a glorious scarlet red over a yellow base and look delicious.

Sam’s Crab (1830s): Used for cooking and cider making as well as a dessert. Needs a warm, sunny situation to achieve it’s finest flavour. It is attractive to birds and insects that like its sweetness.

Claygate Pearmain (1822): A ‘tender granular flesh, which has much of the Ribston (Pippin) richness’ and a similar texture to Blenheim Orange. Late dessert ready December – February. Found in a hedge by John Braddick near Claygate, Thames Ditton, Surrey.

Ribston Pippin (1688): Juicy with an intensely aromatic flavour and a suggestion of pear drops. Rich in vitamin C. Late dessert ready October – January. Grown from a pip brought back from France by Sir Henry Goodricke in Ribston Hall, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Reputed parent of Cox’s Orange Pippin and still grown throughout Britain.

Annie Elizabeth (1857): Excellent for stewing and keeps it’s shape when baked, needing little extra sugar. Late dual purpose. Yellow fruit flushed red – a prized exhibition apple during the Victorian period. Ripens in storage from November – April. Very pretty rose pink blossom with darker red veins that comes late.

James Grieve (1893): Pleasantly acidic when picked, it sweetens and becomes mild after a few weeks. A versatile cooking apple that is excellent for juice and when mature is good served with a cheese course. Widely used in breeding programmes. Originated in Scotland.

George Cave (1923): An early dessert apple, the flavour is strong, sharp, slightly sweet, refreshing and the flesh is creamy-white coloured, crisp and juicy. The skin colour has red flush with carmine over yellow-green background. With keeping soon turns soft. Originally raised from a chance seedling by Mr. George Cave in Dovercourt, Essex.

Scotch Bridget (1851): Late cooker that’s flavour is sometimes considered insipid in the south but better up north as they have more sharpness. Yellow fruit with pretty red stripes. Tolerates dampness. Also known as White Calville. Originated in Scotland.

Golden Pippin (pre-1700): Small rich yellow fruit with russety dots. This is one of the oldest and was one of the most highly esteemed of our dessert apples. It is in season from November till April. Some say it was raised at Parham Park, near Arundel, Sussex.

Pitmaston Pineapple (c.1785): ‘Potent with beneficial esters, in a vintage year its crisp golden flesh has a richness of intense sweet-sharp juice with nutty notes of pineapple and muscat grape – to live for!.’ (Northern Pomera, 2007). Ripens October to December. Raised at Stoke Edith by Mr White, Steward to Lord Foley and released commercially by J. Williams of Pitmaston, Worcester. Small slender tree that does well in the north.

Stoke Edith Pippin (1872): Tapering Pearmain shaped fruit, yellow when ripe. Flesh, yellow, firm, crisp, brisk, and juicy, sweet, and with a nicely perfumed flavour. An excellent dessert apple; in use from November till February. thought to be from the Foley estate in Stoke Edith (like Pitmaston Pineapple).

Dumelow’s Seedling (late 1700s): Late cooker, very crisp, juicy and sharp. Ripens from November through until the end of April. Excellent when spooned from the shell after baking. Probably raised from a Northern Greening pip at Shackerstone, Ashby-de-la-Zouche, Leicestershire by a farmer, Richard Dummeller (or Dummellor –pronounced Dumelow).

Downton Pippin(1806): Yellow dessert apple. A strong cidery flavour popular with the Victorians. Ready November – January. Resembles Golden Pippin. Raised by Thomas Andrew Knight, Esq., of Downton Castle, from the seed of the Isle of Wight Orange Pippin, impregnated with the pollen of the Golden Pippin. “My friend the Rev. C. II. Bulmer, Rector of Credenhill, near Hereford, informs me that mice have a great fondness for this apple, and will eat it with avidity.” (Hogg 1884)

Baker’s Delicious (1932): Flushed bright orange-red over gold. Rich, juicy, lots of sugar, acidity, quite strong aromatic flavour. Deep cream flesh. Grown in small extent for farm shops. Introduced by Baker’s of Codsall, Wolverhampton.

Howgate Wonder (1915): A large cooker made from a cross between a Newton Wonder and a Blenheim Orange. Excellent sharp juice but not great when cooked. Can be eaten off the tree too. Ready in November, keeps through till March.

Sources:

The Northern Pomona (2007)

The Apple Sourcebook (2007)

The New Book of Apple (2002)

The Fruit Manual: Containing The Descriptions And Synonyms Of The Fruits And Fruit Trees Of Great Britain, Robert Hogg (1884)

www.orangepippin.com

www.oldvarieties.com

www.allaboutapples.com

http://www.glasu.org.uk/en/uploads/documents/PerllanauPowysAppleVarietiesPoster.pdf

http://www.england-in-particular.info/orchards/o-heref-f.html

http://www.gloucestershireorchardgroup.org.uk/varieties/apples/?&first_char=s#list

Compiled by Henry Johnson, Daylesford Market Garden