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Warning: this has been written by someone who, until a couple of hours ago, thought there were four basic sorts of apples – green, red, pie and sauce. Apparently there are over 7,500, so some of the terminology may be a little off for true apple buffs.
And it’s not too fanciful to assume Anglophiles will be up on their apples. The British Isles has provided many of the most popular strains of apple in the world, and found an enormous variety of uses for them too, from pies to garnishes to scrumpy. And look at the names! They’re a logophile’s delight:
A dessert apple (ie not for cooking) with a russet coloring, so no amount of lapel rubbing will shine it up. It’s a very sweet, tart apple, perfectly suited to making juice.
Beauty of Bath
A very pretty dessert apple, but not one that lasts very long after it is picked, so it’s not a great to send around the world. And the fruits would sometimes drop off the tree before fully ripe, so farmers took to putting a straw bed under the trees to catch windfalls.
Also known, gloriously, as Dempster’s Pippin, this cooking apple was first found in about 1740, in the Oxfordshire village of Woodstock.
The most popular cooking apple in the UK, The fruit is the most widely sold cooker in the UK. Large sized fruits with waxy skin, green with a red flush. A favourite ingredient in many traditional British puddings.
There’s a (possibly apocryphal) story about a ploughman who was caught stealing apples near Megginch Castle in Scotland, and was shot by a gamekeeper. His wife, in a moment of pure callousness, was given the bag of apples he had taken, and she just put them on the compost heap. A year or so later, a seedling appeared, and these were the apples that came from it.
The first recorded Ribston Pippin tree grew in 1708 from one of three apple pips Sir Henry Goodricke of Ribston Hall sent back home from Normandy. That tree lasted for over 120 years, and even when it died, re-sprouted (if that’s the right word) and managed another 90.
Apparently the apples taste a bit like pears, and is a parent to the mighty Cox’s Orange Pippin.
In 1800, a new cultivar of apple was found in the garden of a cottage in Truro, Cornwall. On the road to being recognised by the Royal Horticultural Society, some 13 years later, it picked up the name gilliflower, from the French girofle, meaning clove, which is apparently what they smell of when cut open.
Don’t try to eat this one raw, as it’s bulbous, has tough skin, and it’s a cooker. However, grenadiers make very good jam and puree. Perfect for apple pie.
The show-off of the group, Laxton’s cross-breed of Wyken Pippin and Cox’s Orange Pippin is the kind of vintage apple the Victorians built an empire on. It’s kind of green and kind of red, good for eating, but not for juice.
See also: Laxton’s Fortune, Laxton’s Epicure
Beatles fans will also know the name because George Harrison’s 1966 song “I Want To Tell You” had the working title of “Laxton’s Superb.” His working title for “Love You To” was “Granny Smith,” and as we all know, this would not be the last apple reference in Beatle history.
Not the easiest apple to get hold of, by any means, but one with a story attached. In 1957, Alfred Hull, a keen amateur gardener, once planted some apple pips in his garden, from which a sapling grew. Sadly, it was quite a weak-looking tree, the sort of thing that looked extremely unlikely to bear any fruit, and it soon became a family joke. Alfred’s daughter Pam took particular glee, telling her dad he should dig the tree up and plant a proper one.
Seven years passed, during which Pam developed Hodgkin’s Disease, and Alfred promised his daughter that if his tree should ever bear fruit, she would be the one to taste it. And then, a sole blossom, which turned into a sole apple. Alfred gave it to Pam in October, and the following spring, just as the tree bloomed fully, she passed away, aged 28.
That year the tree gave Alfred 22 pounds of apples, and by 1968 it was included in the National Register.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic