Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The Rockingham Forest Pomona

Some of our cider apple trees are carrying quite a good crop this year. The Harry Masters' and Dabinetts are the most well established, and around half are cropping heavily. The Yarlington Mills are carrying a few apples, and even the Tremlett's Bitters which we probably shouldn't have allowed to crop at all, have an apple or two to show for their lovely blossom in the Spring.

I am of course biased, but I do think that some varieties of apple are very attractive to the eye. Since this is the first year when we have good specimens of all four of our cider varieties, this blog entry represents a pictorial record of our hobby cider orchard. All the varieties we grow are classified as Bittersweet, and considered to be of 'Vintage Quality', that is to say they are rich in Tannin, and low in acid, and additionally contribute an excellent cidery flavour to the finished cider. Of course this 'Vintage Quality' is derived from fruit grown under ideal conditions, traditional 'Standard' orchards in the West Country for example. Whether our semi-dwarfing trees will produce fruit of Vintage Quality remains to be seen.

It should be noted that none of these varieties are fully ripe, and the colouring will probably change slightly as the apples ripen throughout September and into October.


A classic in current cidermaking circles, Dabinett is a good, annual cropper, relatively disease resistant, and gives a juice of excellent quality. The tannins in Dabinett are 'soft' rather than 'hard' and astringent, and with the addition of a smaller percentage of a sharper apple juice can produce a very pleasant 'Single Variety' cider.

Harry Master' Jersey (also known as Port Wine)

Similar performance to Dabinett, though perhaps a slightly less regular cropper. Our Harry Masters' are cropping heavily this year (see pic at the head of this blog entry), and it will be interesting to see how they perform next season. This image shows the typical conical 'Jersey' shape of this variety very well.

Tremlett's Bitter

Other than when affected by scab, of which Tremlett's are very susceptible, these bright red, conical fruits are very attractive, and highly distinctive in an orchard setting. This is one of the few cider apple varieties I can usually identify with any kind of confidence. Tremlett's are strongly biennial (crop heavily only on alternate years), and quite vigorous. Our trees are growing away very well, putting on a tremendous amount of growth. The juice is a 'hard' full bittersweet, best used in a blend with less astringent fruit.

Yarlington Mill

Another conical 'Jersey' apple, ours are showing a fair bit of ridging around the pointed nose. Yarlington Mill is considered one of the best for cidermaking, and is frequently presented as a single variety cider, though in common with most (all?) bittersweets, is at it's best in a blend. This is a heavy cropper, which may need regular thinning to help prevent biennialism. Our trees have been quite slow to establish, not helped by being sited in perhaps the poorest part of the orchard, with free-draining, and relatively thin soil. The fruit shown here is suffering a little from Scab.

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