Research Projects

I’m not an academic, but I am fascinated by all aspects of fruit growing and have spent a lot of time investigating and researching the history, development and modern best practice techniques of orchard growing.

Please see below for more information on my current personal research projects.

Beefings, Biffins, Beaufins…

They caught my attention and refused to let go, so I’ve spent an unreasonable amount of time researching the orchard origins and evolving nomenclature of the ‘Beefing’ (or ‘Beaufin’, or ‘Biffin’) group of apples. It started with a look at the ‘Hereford(shire) Beefing’, and from there moved on to an in-depth history of the ‘Norfolk Biffin’; both the dried, pressed dessert, and (writing-up ongoing) the apple variety itself:

  1. The Norfolk Beefing / Biffin Dilemma (Feb 2020)
  2. On the Trail of the Hereford Beefing (Feb 2021)
  3. The Norfolk Biffin, A History Part I – Biffin Desserts (Apr 2021)
  4. The Norfolk Biffin, A History Part II – Biffin Apples (pending)

Pome Fruit Horticulture: A Science-Based Approach

As an orchardist I’m deeply interested in researching and applying current best practice methods for looking after the trees in my care.

After hundreds of hours of reading modern and historical pruning guides and academic research papers, I’ve noticed a developing pattern. It turns out that most of the tree training, pruning and maintenance advice that we’re given in gardening manuals and online sources – certainly based on their availability here in the UK – is sometimes decades, maybe even centuries, old. It definitely seems to lag a long way behind the more recent findings of researchers and agronomists around the world.

As a result, I think it’s time to update our tree-care techniques and horticultural practices, basing them on the results and conclusions of scientific research, rather than historical tradition and received wisdom.

I’m currently in the (long, complex) process of compiling the evidence and gathering a narrative together, which I’ll publish as a series of entries here on the site just as soon as I’ve got everything in presentable order.

In the meantime, if this is a subject that you’re particularly interested in, or if you have key information or data that might help me gain clarity and insight into best practice methods, please do drop me a line, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Or, if you’d be in reading the results of my research once they’re posted, please sign up for my mailing list and I’ll drop you a line as soon as everything’s ready.

Historical Orchard Management Methods: A Review

Largely by way of a spin-off from my main Pome Fruit research project, I’m hoping to post a series of articles looking at the evolution (or lack of it) of historical tree care, pruning and orchard management advice over the past three or four centuries.

Glossary of Terms

As I trawl through the ocean of historical and modern pomology texts, I’m extracting any interesting definitions (current or otherwise) and etymology of technical terms and /or orchard lore, to add to the Glossary page. If you know of anything interesting that I’ve not added yet, please do drop me a line and let me know.

Research Sources

I’m also (very) gradually building a Bibliography of both the print texts in my possession and open source texts that I’ve found online. Again, if there’s anything that you can provide access to that I’ve not listed yet, please do let me know.