An apple a day

1st October 2016 In Season

Don’t worry we aren’t talking about those ubiquitous little fruit named gadgets that most of us now use on a daily basis. Instead we are getting back to basics and talking about the sweet, crunchy and pomaceous fruit that is the apple.

Did you know that more than 2,300 varieties of apples have been bred in Britain alone and if you were to eat an apple a day, it would take you more than six years to eat one of each kind!

Apples actually belong to the Rose family of plants and are joined in that family by a wide range of other popular fruits including apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears and even raspberries.

Of the 2,300 kinds of apples which have been bred in Britain, each type has its own distinct colour, shape, texture and taste, we are delighted that there has been a revival in heritage varieties which means greater availability in greengrocers, farmers’ markets, farm shops and even in some supermarkets. The flavours of these traditional apple varieties vary greatly, from the more fragrant types with a hint of strawberry to the full bodied, nutty and spicy apples that come later in the season.

Know your apples?
1.    It takes two pounds of apples to make one nine-inch apple pie.
2.    Have you ever wondered why apples float? It’s because 25% of their volume is made up by air.
3.    Pomology is the science of apple growing.
4.    Apples can range in size from as small as a cherry to as large as a grapefruit.
5.    Apple trees can live for more than 100 years.
6.    Two thirds of the fibre and lots of antioxidants are found in the apple peel.
7.    Apples contain high levels of boron, which increases mental alertness.
8.    Apple seeds contain a cyanide compound.
9.    Apple trees take four to five years to bear their first fruit.
10.    It takes roughly 36 apples to make one gallon of cider.
11.    Many orchards grow dwarf apple trees because their height makes them easier to maintain and harvest.
12.    Malusdomesticaphobia is the fear of apples! And no, we didn’t make that up.

Different types of apples
In basic terms, there are two types of apples: eating apples and cooking apples. Eating apples are sweeter and have the most interesting flavours, this is because their sugars are balanced by an edge of acidity. They also hold their shape during cooking, making them the right choice for a French apple tart or a Tarte Tatin, recipes which were developed in countries without a tradition of cooking apples. Some of the most popular varieties include Granny Smith, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Golden Delicious.

Cooking apples are larger and more acidic but this sourness does mellow during cooking. But interestingly a cooking apple will become more like an eating apple in storage because the acids do lessen over time. Some apples are even classed as dual-purpose, and these varieties are best for cooking when young and for eating when they are older. The most popular British cooking apple is of course the Bramley Apple.

If you are lucky enough to have apple trees in your garden or have the opportunity to pick your own, all you need to do is gently cup the apple in your hand and twist slightly. If the stalk comes away easily from the tree, the apple is ready.

Here are some wonderful Scottish apple varieties with equally wonderful names which you may or may not have heard of.

The James Grieve
A dessert apple with yellow fruit, speckled and striped with orange. This apple is savoury and juicy with a strong acidity.

The Coul Blush
Britain’s most northerly apple, hailing from Coul in Ross-shire. Gold with a faint flush and sweet, with a soft, cream flesh. Makes a good sauce.

The Bloody Ploughman
Cultivated in the Carse of Gowrie around 1880. Deep, dark, blood red eating apple with flesh with pink stains. Named after a ploughman who was caught stealing the apples and shot by a gamekeeper.

The Cambusnethan Pippin
Popular for being an excellent, scab-free dessert apple from either Clydesdale or Stirling. It is tender and juicy with mild acidity.

The Lass O’Gowrie
A sweet, juicy cooker from Perthshire which is favoured for keeping its shape.

And we are pleased to introduce one that is practically on our own doorstep!

The White Melrose
Raised at Melrose Abbey before 1831. This variety is a large, ribbed, green fruit popular in Tweedside orchards in the 19th century and has a sweet and pleasantly sub-acid flavour.

Storing apples
If you do find yourself with a large quantity of apples at this time of year aren’t able to use them all, the good news is that they will store really well for months if they are unblemished. Just wrap each one in dry newspaper and then place them in a single layer in the bottom of a wooden crate or shallow cardboard box. Then place in a cool, dry, dark, airy place and check them regularly and immediately throw out any that have rotted. As a rule, the later that an apple ripens, the longer it will keep.

Well worth a visit
And last but not least, do try and visit the wonderful Apple Orchard at the National Trust’s Priorwood Gardens, next to Melrose Abbey. The orchard cultivates many historic apple varieties, conjuring up connections with the garden’s past, when it may have been used as a kitchen garden by Melrose Abbey monks.