Prof. R. W. Lazenby, on the Perfect Apple

What is a Perfect Apple? The qualities now in demand for an ideal or perfect apple, nt including productiveness, size and hardiness of tree, summarized by Prof. R. W. Lazenby before the Columbus Horticultural Society, were as follows: 
1 - Richness, consisting mainly of a large amount and the proper proportion of sugar and acid. 
2 - A good flavor. 
3 - Firm, yet tender and melting flesh. 
4 - A good color. 
5 - A good shape. 
6 - Moderate and uniform size. 
7 - A smooth, thin skin, yet tough enough to prevent easy breaking. 
8 - Small core and few seeds. 
9 - Evenness of maturity. 
10 - Firm adherence to tree. 
11 - Good cooking qualities. 
12 - Good keeping qualities. 

The Rural Californian, July 1896

The above list of desirable apple characteristics, published at the end of the nineteenth century, is clearly aimed at commercial growers – ‘Firm adherence to tree’ wouldn’t necessarily make the wish-list for your average allotment or back garden apple tree – but does seem to cover the essential bases, albeit a bit vaguely on one or two points. Although presumably Prof. Lazenby would have explained what he considered to be ‘good flavor’ and a ‘good shape’ during his talk.

It’s interesting that richness is emphasised more than ‘flavour’; that balance between sweetness and acid that you find in a really good heritage apple variety, along with a wholesome and firm yet tender mouth-feel, both of which are characteristics so often missing from modern supermarket varieties, most of which seem to be uniformly bred for pure crunch and high-sugar.

I think my best shot at an apple that meets the above criteria is probably ‘Kidd’s Orange Red’, which I grow on the Plot #79 orchard. It was bred in the middle of the twentieth century, so it’s not the apple that Prof. Lazenby was thinking of, but I think he’d probably have approved of it nonetheless.

How about you? Do you know of an apple that meets those criteria? Or would your perfect apple be something completely different? Do let me know, via the comments.

6 comments

  1. Personally I like Peasgoods Nonsuch. They are DP and are a really nice flavour as an eater, plus when baked they are delicious. My father moved into a house in 1939 and one was in the garden so maybe I’m biased as I have one in our garden in N Yorkshire now.

    1. Hi John – That’s a fine old variety! Great to hear you’re continuing the family apple tradition. I can’t remember if I’ve had a chance to try one yet. Definitely one for the wishlist.

  2. I definitely prefer some sharp acidity as well as sweetness. I’m growing Red Falstaff and Jumbo, a cooker, both on dwarf rootstock, in pots in my small garden. No fruit yet as they’ve only been in just over a year. I hope I’ve chosen well.

    1. I don’t think I’ve tried those two yet, either. ‘Red Falstaff’ is a sport of ‘Falstaff’, which was a product of the Malling Research Station breeding programme from the ’60s. Bearing in mind that means it’s a survivor from thousands of potential candidates, it really ought to be a good one. ‘Jumbo’ seems to be an American apple, a.k.a. ‘Stark’s Jumbo’ and it’s listed on Pomiferous.com as a cooker (or ‘pie’ apple as they put it) so it should be plenty sharp.

      If you like a bit of acidity and not too much sugariness then I can recommend a heritage type for you: ‘Keswick Codlin’. Goes back to at least the late C18th, but there were ‘codlin’ types around for a couple of hundred years before that. Or ‘Catshead’, which is so ancient it’s quite possibly medieval. We have a tree of that at Ordsall Hall. Swing by in Autumn and we might have a few on the donations table 🙂

    1. That’s a fine-looking apple. I don’t think it’s at all common here in the UK though. Doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the National Collection Database 😐

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