Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bramley Apple Week

I’ve just found out that it’s Bramley Apple Week this week. Quite why this should be in February when any half sensible apple tree will be in the middle of a well-earned winter snooze I’ve not the faintest idea, perhaps the autumnal apple harvesting calendar is chock full of national awareness days for other seasonal varieties, and the nation’s favourite cooker had to take the first free spot. Whatever the reason, if you’re lucky enough to have a Bramley apple tree in your garden and were conscientious in storing your harvest, you can still be enjoying the fruits into spring. And if not, there’s always the farmers market or the greengrocer...or even (whisper it!) the supermarket.

We live in the heart of traditional apple country surrounded by hundreds of acres of orchards, although sadly more are being grubbed out each year and in yet more the crop goes unpicked due to low wholesale prices. Which only goes to strengthen the argument for planting apple trees of our own – it’s the perfect Grow Your Own crop for those terminally strapped for time, requiring very little time or attention once planted, and minimal space if a dwarfing rootstock is chosen.

The Bramley apple, or ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ to give the full name, originated in the garden of a Nottinghamshire butcher Matthew Bramley, in 1856 but local nursery owner Henry Merryweather deserves the thanks for developing the fruit commercially. Less sweet and more acidic than dessert apples when picked from the tree, the appley flavour its retained when cooked, while its sugary cousins can become somewhat nondescript to taste. The process of cooking also favours the Bramley’s higher water content, making its texture more succulent than a cooked dessert apple.

A Bramley apple tree in the garden will require two other varieties to pollinate it – any reputable nursery will be able to provide a list of suitable candidates, but it’s worth remembering that insects don’t respect garden boundaries and so any apple trees which your neighbours have may well be suitable for this purpose. And if not, what a great excuse to start your own mini orchard, growing dessert and cooking apples together. Just make sure that the varieties you choose flower at the same time.

For more information, see The Bramley Apple Information Service