Thursday, 28 August 2008

Apple mystery solved?

The apples from the small tree we thinned in June have now reached their ripe potential. This is a very early apple which rarely stays on the tree later than early September. Unfortunately quite a few have fallen off in the stiff breeze which has been blowing down the valley this week, but enough have survived to make it into this years batch of chutney, and a fair few will be given away as they don't keep too well. The thinning has helped give us a fair crop of decent sized fruit, and in the spirit of the keen amateur I've been pouring over books and web sites in an attempt to identify the variety.

Identifying unknown varieties of apple is a difficult task even for the 'professionals'. The variables of size, shape and colour are almost infinite, and there's the added complication that a particular variety can vary in appearance under different growing conditions. So it's with this in mind that I've made a reasonably confident guess that this apple is in fact a James Grieve.
James Grieve apples are described in the current bible for apple enthusiasts, 'The New Book of Apples' (Joan Morgan & Alison Richards - Ebury Press), as having a ' flush, stripes over pale green/yellow.' The apple is medium sized, round/conical, and is slightly ribbed. The cavity (the depression the stalk disappears into) has lines of scaly russetting.

These apples certainly look the part, and James Grieve would have been a popular choice around the time this tree was planted. I've also cross-referenced with a few web sites, most of which only serve to confuse the issue, but Nigel Deacon's excellent Diversity website has a good reference to James Grieve with a nice picture of the variety from Church Stretton which looks very similar to ours.

The flavour of our apples is very good, quite tart but with a good rich sweetness too. James Grieve is often described as suitable for use as a cooking apple early in the season, and I can confirm that our apples worked very well in a batch of apple scones this week.

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