Everything’s coming up apples
Kentish Fill Basket, Gravenstein All Red, Egremont Russet, Merton Worcester, Hetlina, Benoni, Lawfam, Mt Cook, Telstar, Monty’s Surprise, Captain Kidd, Kingston Black… you won’t find the apples on my trees in the supermarket or even the best greengrocer. They are not grown commercially, and it’s not because they are not good apples. Gravenstein All Red is one of the earliest apples to ripen, in mid-February, breaking the ‘fresh apple drought’. When I was a kid I used to stake out the Gravenstein tree in our little home orchard, waiting for the first ripe apples to fall. (I was only allowed to eat the windfalls – picking was reserved for the adults.) Like most early apples, the Gravenstein is not a good keeper, but it is full of juice and flavour and a great ‘drought-breaker’.
The Kentish Fill Basket is one of the earliest cooking apples (and fine for eating raw when fully ripe as well). It is a big apple – it doesn’t take many to fill a basket. When stewed it doesn’t need added sugar to be quite sweet enough for eating with breakfast cereals, or dessert. Hetlina and Monty’s Surprise I am growing because they score very highly on an important quality – nutritional value – which the supermarket apples that are bred for looks, sweetness and ease of production are lacking.
The Heritage Food Crops Research Trust, which is based in Whanganui, began its valuable work into the health-promoting powers of particular varieties of fruits and vegetables by researching apple varieties. The story of how they found and investigated the Monty’s Surprise apple (read it here ), and how it came out tops in tests for nutrition, is well worth a read.
Apples are such a common fruit, and are usually so cheap to buy that most people no longer bother to grow their own, even though they are a lot easier to grow than most fruits. Nor do we give much thought to just how nutritious and health-promoting they can be if we choose the right varieties. The Heritage Food Crops Trust research shows that a (Monty’s Surprise) apple a day really could help keep the (oncologist) doctor away. Even when it’s made into cider… and that’s why I’m growing Kingston Black cider apples and have a tree full that will be ripe in mid-March – and am hoping to find someone local with a cider press before then!