The pale green Cat’s Head are not pretty apples. Big and angular with very short stalks, the fruit often grow lop-sided from the pressure of their neighbours. By contrast the equally large Herring’s Pippin are picture book apples; round, shiny and seductively red. Cat’s Head is an ancient variety – one nursery list suggests an 11th century, Norman origin while another gives a very specific date of 1629. Herring’s Pippin is a relative newcomer, raised by a Mr Herring of Lincoln from a chance seedling and introduced by a Nottinghamshire nursery in 1908. Cat’s Head is an ideal cooker, Herring’s Pippin a richly flavoured eater. Neither are ever likely to appear in your local supermarket.
A day of gusty wind and squally rain earlier in the week brought down lots of windfall apples. The Cat’s Head are so solid that they suffer little damage when they fall on wet grass. By contrast the crisp and juicy Fortune bruise easily; their windfalls need using up quickly.
The apple store in the old goat shed smells wonderful now, with the blended aromas of half a dozen different varieties. Some like the Ribston Pippin will improve with storage and keep for a couple of months. Others, like the red-flushed Fortune may stay perfect for just another week.