Yes, I know these are apples but, as there’s no proverb about counting apples in July, I’m counting my chickens before they hatch. The first row of apple trees, planted in February 2017, have all set so much fruit that I’ve been thinning them. It’s tempting to assume that there will be a few pounds of apples from every tree to sample come autumn but storms, drought, hail or caterpillars may yet make me regret my confidence.
Some of the varieties look very similar at this early stage. The apple in the headline photo is Sunset, the variety that fruited most reliably in our York garden, and this one’s Discovery. When ripe the Sunset will be a yellow fleshed fruit flushed with orange while the early Discovery will be white-fleshed and red skinned. For now they look much the same.
This one’s Michaelmas Red, or at least the nursery assured me it was. I chose this variety with a long ago memory clear in my mind of a wide spreading tree, laden with small, round, aromatic, wine red fruit. The one apple that the tree produced last year didn’t fit that description at all. This year’s fruit are certainly round so far but they’ve a long way to go yet.
Some varieties are rarely grown commercially because they are unreliable. Some have thin skins and are easily bruised, others start to wrinkle two weeks after picking. Some fail to make the commercial grade just because they don’t look right. That might apply to Keswick Codling (above) whose fruit are variously described as ‘long and rather angular’ or having a ‘squashed shape’. The young, ribbed fruit are also hairy at the moment but should be smooth skinned and pale green when they are ripe. The one apple on the tree last year was gorgeous, crisp and fresh with a sharp but aromatic flavour.
The first fruit of the Bloody Ploughman are already looking distinctive. This hardy Scottish variety has blood red fruit with red-flushed flesh and a back-story to match their appearance. The story goes that a ploughman caught stealing apples on the Megginch estate was shot by the gamekeeper. His wife found the bag of apples and threw them on the rubbish heap where a seedling tree sprouted. Rescued by a fellow farm worker, the red-fruited tree was named after the unfortunate ploughman. History doesn’t record what happened to the gamekeeper.