2022 has been a very good year indeed for orchard top fruit (and soft fruit) in our neck of the woods. Despite the long, hot, dry spells we endured over the summer, most of the fruit trees I’ve been looking after – the #plot79 orchard, plus the cordons and stepovers on our main allotment plot – have not only survived but positively thrived; their leaves have remained green and healthy even in temperatures of up to around 37°C and the fruit they’ve produced has, for the most part, been both bounteous and flavourful.
Here’s a run-down of the apples, pears and other fruits that I’ve been harvesting from both plots this year:
Apple ‘Wareham Russet’ – the Plot #79 tree fruited well for the first time this year, producing good-sized apples that cooked down to a smooth purée. They tasted good right off the tree as well, when they were ripe enough. I’ve got a cordon of this one as well but it’s only a couple of years old, so not producing much fruit just yet.
Apple ‘Howgate Wonder’ – Our stepover tree has had a rather superb year, producing around a dozen enormous fruits: the one pictured above weighed in at 700g and the largest of the year weighed in at 771g. I kid you not:
‘Howgate Wonder’ is another good purée cooker, but given enough time on the tree to ripen and redden it can be eaten fresh as well, with a pleasantly sharp, fresh flavour. I’ve also been told that it’s a good keeper that develops additional sweetness in storage, so I’m going to try to keep two or three of the best quality specimens until Christmas, then see how they taste.
Apple ‘Blenheim Orange’ – Another classic cooking variety that can also be eaten fresh later in the season, once they’ve ripened up. The fruit pictured here is actually from the mature standard tree in the heritage orchard at Ordsall Hall, but the stepover on our plot has produced a few decent apples as well. Ours haven’t reddened up quite as well as this one though, largely due to the position of the fruit on the stepover and the shading they receive from the tree’s excessive foliage1I’ve been detailing the saga of winter-pruning this particular stepover, and two others, which you can read about here, if you’re interested..
Apple ‘Norfolk Beefing’ – This is the lone apple that developed on a two-year-old tree that my former boss back at Ordsall Hall gave me as a birthday present earlier this year2I’m slightly obsessed with the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ – as my research into dried Norfolk Biffins and forthcoming history of the cultivar will attest – so the aforementioned and most excellent former boss picked up a tree for me from the East of England Orchards Project, for which I’ll be ever-grateful. Especially if it bears enough fruit in future years for me to grow a crop of Beefings to turn into Biffins… yum!. Unfortunately though, the fruit was damaged – possibly infested by a codling moth grub, or just pecked by a pigeon – so I’ve picked it far too early, rather than risk it rotting on the tree. As a result, I’m sure this is far from the best example of a ‘Norfolk Beefing’, and I look forward to seeing whether the tree – which is growing in a large air-pot on the allotment, as it’s on MM106 rootstock and could potentially develop into a bit of a monster if I planted it in open ground – will produce more fruit next in years to come.
Apple ‘Belle de Boskoop’ – The apple here is from one of our cordon trees3Judging by the vigour and resulting excessive growth that this particular tree has put on this year I suspect it may be another that was grafted to MM106 rootstock rather than a more restrained M9 or M27. I might have to remove it in another year or two, as it’s starting to become a problem. Depends how much I enjoy the fruit, I guess…. I haven’t tried this one just yet; it’s meant to be a good keeper and I suspect the flavour will improve over time, so I may store the fruits I’ve picked, for sampling later on.
Apple ‘Reinette du Canada’ – This one is meant to be a russet cooker, but the tree we have doesn’t seem to be producing particularly russeted apples. I tried one fresh from the tree the other day and it was under-ripe, quite sharp and dry-textured, so I’ll be leaving a few more on the tree to try in a few weeks. I suspect it would be another good purée apple, if the consistency doesn’t alter much as the fruit matures.
Apple ‘Keswick Codlin’ – An early-season apple, ripening in August, the fruit pictured above is literally the last one of the year. It somehow managed to cling on to our cordon tree, far later than the rest of the very good crop we had from our stepover:
‘Keswick Codlin’ cooks down to a really lovely, silky smooth purée. Or, if you like a sharp, citrusy apple, it’s a good choice for eating fresh, from the end of August. They don’t keep well though, so best cooked or eaten sooner than later.
Apple ‘Lord Clyde’ – This Victorian-era, yellowish-green apple has a mildly sub-acid flavour, without much in the way of sweetness. Pleasant, if you like that sort of thing, but it doesn’t excite my tastebuds fresh off the tree. I think it’s meant to hold its shape when cooking though, so it might be useful for adding texture to pies or crumbles. I’m just glad we’ve actually had a crop from this particular tree, because it’s had pretty serious problems with apple canker for the past couple of years.
Apple ‘Winter Gem’ – Although this is quite a large apple, it’s definitely a dessert variety rather than a cooker. Our young cordon tree only produced one fruit, shown here, but I was able to try another one that a friend of mine at work brought in. It was… okay. Pleasant. But not quite the “outstandingly aromatic, appley flavour” described elsewhere. I’m not sure it should have come off the tree yet though, as it’s not meant to ripen until the end of October. But it is considered to be a good keeper, so perhaps I’ll hang onto this last fruit for a while and see how the flavour develops.
Apple ‘Saturn’ – The standard tree on plot #79 is a prolific bearer and despite rigorous fruit-thinning back in June it still bore and ripened dozens upon dozens of these medium-sized fruits. A bit bland straight off the tree, they improve immensely after a week or two of keeping, developing a much richer flavour. A very good dessert apple, this one.
Apple ‘Rajka’ – Another of our young cordons, the tree in question only produced two fruits this year. It’s a nice-looking apple, with a good colour and a touch of russet. Again, I haven’t tried it quite yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it eats.
Apple ‘Jester’ – The plot #79 tree is a very small one on dwarfing rootstock, but it still produces a couple of dozen or so apples every year. They’re… not great. Shiny and juicy, but a bit insipid, flavour-wise and they did have a few problems with bitter pit this year. I’d much rather have a ‘Saturn’ or ‘Kidde’s Orange Red’ (see below).
Apple ‘Kidde’s Orange Red’ – I’ve said it elsewhere and I’ll say it again: this is by far my favourite apple in the plot #79 orchard. Deep red, with a nice bit of russeting, it has a deep flavour as well, backed up with plenty of juicy crunch. This year the tree must have been a bit drought-stressed, as the apples it produced were smaller than usual and a bit scabby. Not that I’m going to let that sort of thing put me off. I’ll be taking scions from the tree this year to graft to dwarfing stock as one of my next batch of cordons. The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned.
Apple ‘Lord Derby’ – Cordon-grown, the few apples that our young tree produced were a bit on the small side4I’ve seen one three or four times as big at work, and the tree at Ordsall Hall was covered in good-sized apples when I was there a couple of weeks ago. but they’re meant to be good cookers – according to the N.F.C. database and Joan Morgan’s New Book of Apples, which says ‘Lord Derby’ is good for pies as it breaks down easily – so I’m looking forward to a more robust harvest in years to come. Side note: both ‘Lord Derby’ and ‘Lord Clyde’ were raised by B. W. Witham of Reddish, near Stockport in the 1860s, so are technically local apples. It might also explain their strong similarity to each other.
Apple ‘Simister Seedling’ – You won’t find this one in any of the reference books. As the name suggests, it’s from a seedling tree which I’ll be talking more about in another blog post. The fruit pictured is from the parent tree, but I have grafted a scion that I’m hoping to grow into a cordon over the next year or two. It’s an interesting little apple; small in size but with a good, nutty-sharp flavour. As I say, more on this one anon.
Apple ‘Greensleeves’ – Bit of a puzzle here. The apple on the left in this photo is from the cordon tree that I grafted from a scion labelled ‘Greensleeves’. The apple on the right is from a ‘Greensleeves’ tree that my mate Ian at work has on his allotment. As you can see, there’s quite a visual difference, colour-wise, but that apart, the apples are very similar in terms of their size, shape and key characteristics. Now, it may be that the reddening on my apple has been caused by sunburn – the cordon in question is growing in an unshaded position and the fruit would have been in direct sunlight for a lot of the long, hot summer we had this year – or it could, perhaps, be a natural bud-sport (‘Redsleeves’?). I’ll have to see what sort of fruit our cordon produces next year before I can guess at the cause. I’ll also be interested to see if the apples develop any better flavour if they’re left on the tree longer to ripen – both the fruits shown above were quite bland, very crunchy, rather ‘Granny Smith’, which has never been my favourite type of apple – and whether they grow any larger as the cordon matures, and if they yellow as they ripen, as per this tweeted pic of a batch of Greensleeves from Whin Hill Cider in Norfolk. Questions, questions.
Quince ‘Meeche’s Prolific’ – I’m particularly pleased that the quince tree that we planted on the plot #79 orchard back in 2018 has produced its first decent crop this year, with around two or three dozen fruits setting and ripening up nicely. The tree suffered an early disease issue – possibly fireblight, but definitely some sort of viral or bacterial infection – that necessitated the removal of most of the young tree’s canopy after just two years’ growth. I picked the most photogenic one for the line-up, but a lot of the fruit is very scabby – the result of all the dry weather this year, presumably – and ugly-looking. Not that a bit of scab affects the flavour once the fruit is peeled, chopped and stewed; releasing that delicious, floral, lightly spiced aroma and that deliciously unique quince flavour.
Pear ‘Nouveau Poiteau’ (or ‘Nouveau Poitou’?) – Two very similar-sounding names, or possibly just spelling variants, could apply to this pear5Various sources give the name as ‘Nouveau Poiteau’ or ‘Nouveau Poitou’ and the only reason it might not be a case of a simple spelling mix-up is that those same sources also specify two different pollination groups. And, knowing quite how prolific the Belgians were when it came to pear-breeding back in the day, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that two small towns, or two pear growers, with very similar names each named a slightly different pear in their own honour. At the end of the day though, Jim Arbury says ‘Nouveau Poiteau’, and the illustration by Sally Hey in their Pears book is very close to the pears we’re growing, so that’s good enough for me.. The pear shown above has been picked a little early; they’re best left on the tree until mid-November, or even later if a harsh frost isn’t threatened. ‘Nouveau Poiteau’ then ripens to a luscious, melt-in-the-mouth dessert pear that’s a delight to devour. When picked too early and it’s more than likely to dry and shrivel in the fruit bowl for lack of moisture. Patience is well-rewarded here.
Pear ‘Doyenne d’été’ (??) – The double-question mark is because I really don’t think the tree we have growing on plot #79 is the tree it’s supposed to be. All the sources I’ve found describe ‘Buerré d’été’ as one of the earliest-ripening summer pears, with descriptions that specify a bright green fruit that ripens to yellow. This pear, however, is distinctly late-ripening, as it’s still (as of Oct 22nd) very hard and definitely un-ripe. The provenance is already rather confused6The tree was originally supplied as ‘Buerré d’été’, which according to online research doesn’t actually exist as a known variety, and the ‘Buerré’ element would suggest a soft, buttery dessert pear, specifically one that ripened in the summer (“d’été” meaning “of summer”). and the evidence on the table suggests that what we have is more likely to be a cooking pear, which I’ll have to try to identify. At least the tree has produced well this year, as for the past few it has been rather plagued by pest and disease problems.
Pear ‘Double de Guerre’ – The literal translation of the name, according to Google Translate, is “war double”7This seems to me to be rather an odd name for a pear, but it was apparently raised in Belgium c.1818-1819, which would have been not long after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, so perhaps it was some sort of commemorative naming? I’d probably have to do a deep-dive into the Belgian archives to find out… and the pear itself is quite large, with a lovely red flush on the sun-coloured side and very firm flesh. Definitely a cooker; Joan Morgan (The Book of Pears) says it poaches beautifully, especially if sliced first, so I think that’s what I’ll be trying with the dozen or so pears I picked this year. Either that or blending it with a good cooking apple and plenty of warming spices for a porridge-topping treat. Yum.
Medlar ‘Nottingham’ – It’s definitely too early for medlar harvesting – ideally we’d wait until the end of November, or at least until after the first frost before shaking them off the tree – but we have had a couple of windfalls, pictured here. This is the first year that the tree on plot #79 has produced a decent crop; the fruits are good-sized and haven’t split as they have in past year. I expect out allotment secretary will be grabbing as many as possible for his medlar chutney making efforts this year, and why not?
Not Pictured Above
There are a few more top-fruits that we’ve been picking and enjoying this year that were over and done with too early for the photoshoot:
Apple ‘Beauty of Bath’ – This one is a very early (late July to mid August) cropper and is a very fetching striped yellow / red colour. But that’s the best I can say for it, as it tastes rather bland and turns dry and mealy very quickly indeed. As opposed to…
Apple ‘Tydeman’s Early Worcester’ – My very favourite early-ripening apple (so far), this one has very good flavour and a firm, crunchy texture, with plenty of juice. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a good dessert apple to kick-start your harvest season:
Apple ‘Worcester Pearmain’ – Another fairly early (mid August to early September) apple, with good flavour and a pleasantly firm texture, the small tree on plot #27 produced a couple of dozen apples which were picked and eaten before I could put one aside for reference. Quite right too.
Apple ‘Grandpa Buxton’ – This early-ripening (September) cooker is very good indeed for cooking to a purée, as the number of packets of the stuff in our freezer will attest. It produces large fruits, the weight of which almost toppled the tree a couple of years back, and this year a good number of them, too.
Fig ‘Brown Turkey’ – The tree is actually growing in our back garden rather than on the allotment8Although I have attempted to air-layer a stem and hope to be able to plant it out on the plot next year, if it survives the winter. and it had a pretty good year, producing a couple of dozen large-ish, well ripened and utterly delicious figs. I’m looking forward to many more next year and hopefully for years to come, frost attacks allowing.
Damson ‘Shropshire Prune’ – This is another plot #79 tree that performed and produced really well for the first time this year. In fact, the damson harvest was pretty epic, with kilos and kilos of these small, deliciously tart plums picked for purée, some of which I made into damson ripple ice cream, some of which I froze for later use.
Yellow Plum – The tree at the back of our plot9This tree was the subject of a post on restoration pruning a few years back. was just as prolific this year as it has been for the past few, producing hundreds of small, yellow plums. The variety is a bit of a mystery though; they seemed too small for ‘Yellow Egg’ (although I’m sure they’ve been larger in past seasons) and too large to be just a random cherry plum, although it was planted by someone else, so who knows? I’m hoping the tree will be a little more restrained next year and produce fruit that’s larger and perhaps therefore a little easier to identify.
Plum ‘Burbank’s Tangerine’ – The tree on plot #79 has been slow to reach maturity, only producing a half dozen or so fruits this year. It shows a lot of promise though; the plums are a good size and very tasty, with orange-yellow flesh (hence the name?) and yes, perhaps just a hint of tangerine in the flavour (hence the name?). Well done Luther Burbank, and let’s hope we get plenty more fruit from this one in years to come.
So, there we have it. A bit of a long-read round-up10Thank you if you’ve persevered this far and I do hope it’s been an interesting read. of our top fruit growing efforts this year. Next year may see some changes, hopefully in the form of new cordon additions to the main plot, which I’ll be posting about in due course.
How about you? I’d love to hear about your favourite fruits of 2022. Please do feel free to let me know what went well, or not so well, in your garden, allotment or orchard, via the comments section, after the Footnotes.
- 1I’ve been detailing the saga of winter-pruning this particular stepover, and two others, which you can read about here, if you’re interested.
- 2I’m slightly obsessed with the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ – as my research into dried Norfolk Biffins and forthcoming history of the cultivar will attest – so the aforementioned and most excellent former boss picked up a tree for me from the East of England Orchards Project, for which I’ll be ever-grateful. Especially if it bears enough fruit in future years for me to grow a crop of Beefings to turn into Biffins… yum!
- 3Judging by the vigour and resulting excessive growth that this particular tree has put on this year I suspect it may be another that was grafted to MM106 rootstock rather than a more restrained M9 or M27. I might have to remove it in another year or two, as it’s starting to become a problem. Depends how much I enjoy the fruit, I guess…
- 4I’ve seen one three or four times as big at work, and the tree at Ordsall Hall was covered in good-sized apples when I was there a couple of weeks ago.
- 5Various sources give the name as ‘Nouveau Poiteau’ or ‘Nouveau Poitou’ and the only reason it might not be a case of a simple spelling mix-up is that those same sources also specify two different pollination groups. And, knowing quite how prolific the Belgians were when it came to pear-breeding back in the day, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that two small towns, or two pear growers, with very similar names each named a slightly different pear in their own honour. At the end of the day though, Jim Arbury says ‘Nouveau Poiteau’, and the illustration by Sally Hey in their Pears book is very close to the pears we’re growing, so that’s good enough for me.
- 6The tree was originally supplied as ‘Buerré d’été’, which according to online research doesn’t actually exist as a known variety, and the ‘Buerré’ element would suggest a soft, buttery dessert pear, specifically one that ripened in the summer (“d’été” meaning “of summer”).
- 7This seems to me to be rather an odd name for a pear, but it was apparently raised in Belgium c.1818-1819, which would have been not long after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, so perhaps it was some sort of commemorative naming? I’d probably have to do a deep-dive into the Belgian archives to find out…
- 8Although I have attempted to air-layer a stem and hope to be able to plant it out on the plot next year, if it survives the winter.
- 9This tree was the subject of a post on restoration pruning a few years back.
- 10Thank you if you’ve persevered this far and I do hope it’s been an interesting read.