It has to be said that for many people their experience of apple varieties is limited because supermarkets stock only a very limited range, often imported varieties. This is where smallholders and gardeners with enough space have the advantage. They often go in for planting lots of trees and will seek out different varieties, many of which the supermarkets ignore.
There is another factor to consider here. There are nearly 2000 UK apple varieties. An individual can only become familiar with a fraction of these. Luckily, establishments like Brogdale, home to the National Fruit Collection, bears the larger weight of responsibility for maintaining our heritage varieties
Having provided all these qualifications, here’s my list (not in rank order).
1. Cox’s Orange Pippin — Perhaps the most famous dessert apple. It has a distinctive flavour, juicy and with a good crunch. Supermarket ones, I think, are stored too long to get them at their best. Not so easy to grow, preferring a heavy soil.
2. Ashmead’s Kernel — Crispy and strong flavour. I prefer them picked early when they are still a little tart.
3. Sparten — Crispy, juicy and sweet. They also have an attractive red skin which makes them look like the apple the wicked queen offers to Snow White. Sometimes they can be on the smaller side if the tree is cropping very heavily.
4. Blenheim Orange — The apple tree we had in our garden when growing up produced largish apples. They were juicy, crunchy and tart (if not sour). As children we enjoyed them immensely and never found another apple to match. That is until I came across Blenheim Orange. This is regarded as dual purpose, good for cooking and as a dessert. It also stores very well and we often have supplies to draw upon until the following March. I wonder if this was the one we had in our garden.
5. Egremont Russet — Not everyone likes the denser flesh of russet apples but I do. It is dense and has a noticeably aromatic flavour.
6. Darcy Spice — With russet tendencies, this is an apple with hardish flesh but still juicy. It originates from Tolleshunt Darcy near Maldon in Essex.
7. Discovery — Another Essex apple. Known for being one of the first to crop, like many earlies it doesn't store well so eat them as they come.
8. Bramley — The famous cooker with a famous history. The original tree from a chance seedling is still standing (just) in Southwell, Nottingham-shire. They should be light green with red blush stripes rather than the uniform shiny green that the shops often sell.
9. Laxton’s Superb — A bit like a Cox. It is a later cropper which adds to its positive attributes.
10. James Grieve — A reputation for not storing well. This apple is outstanding early season, eaten straight off the tree.
Ask me next month and this list might be different as yours might be too.
|Darcy Spice Photo: from the Web site of the admirable
Lathcoats Farm orchard and farm shop, Galleywood
Chelmsford who grow and sell a wide variety of apples and more