One of the apple trees we have growing on Plot #79 is ‘Beauty of Bath’ and it’s always the first of our apples to ripen and be ready for eating. So picking (very carefully!) the first ‘Beauty of Bath’ apples is always a highlight of the year, simply because it means the apple harvest has started!
The apple itself is small to medium, bright green flushed with red on the sunward side, and of a distinctly flat-round shape. The stalk is usually very short and recessed, which causes the fruit to cling to the branch and can make it hard to detach a ripe individual from a tight-growing cluster (another good reason to carry out fruitlet thinning earlier in the season), and the eye is often open at the centre.
‘Beauty of Bath’ is a sharp-sweet apple, especially if you pick a few that are slightly under-ripe, whose pips have not yet darkened and if, as recently, the rain has outdone the sunshine so there’s more acid than sugar in the flavour profile. They have that wonderful, fresh-off-the-tree, tongue-tingling sharpness if you eat them quickly enough, but don’t take long to turn dry and mealy, so they’re definitely not a storing variety. A perfect example of what Juniper and Mabberley call a ‘Phase I apple'.
‘Beauty of Bath’ is an old heritage variety, raised in 1864 from a ‘Joaneting' seedling. The fruits are notoriously quick to drop – they certainly detach from the branch without much persuasion – and in straw was supposedly placed beneath the trees to try to catch them, back in the days when this was one of the most important early eating apples and grown on any sort of mass scale.
I love a ‘Beauty of Bath’, not only because they taste great and are the first apples to pick every year, but because our tree is on M9 / M27 rootstock and hasn’t grown much at all in the four years since planting, but has still produced around 20 good apples a year for the past three. That makes it a fleeting, temporary pleasure; the apples are available for a week or maybe two and then they’re gone again for another year.
How about you? Do you grow any early varieties? (‘Discovery’, ‘Irish Peach’, ‘James Grieve’, ‘Laxton’s Early Crimson’?) Do let me know, via the comments.
|⇧1||The Story of the Apple, Barrie E. Juniper and David Mabberley, Timber Press, 2006|
|⇧2||or ‘Joaneting’ or a number of other slight spelling variations.|
|⇧3||I have to confess I tend to be greedy with the ‘Beauty of Bath’; I’m not as good at sharing them with my fellow orchard curators as I probably could be (if I don’t see them around when the apples need picking, then I can’t hand them over, can I? That’s my defence, and I’m sticking to it…) but I do try to make up for my lack of generosity later in the season, when some of the more prolific varieties are in full flow.|