Just what is it that sets apples apart?

Early Discovery apples. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Early Discovery apples. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Discovery was raised in 1949 and is always the first dessert apple to ripen in this garden.

It’s juicy and sweet, reflecting the Worcester Pearmain and Beauty of Bath parentage.

It ripens in late August. Grafted onto the semi-dwarfing M106 rootstock, with feeding and deep organic mulch, it offers large fruit.

This attracts blackbirds in early September and wasps at the month’s end if we’ve left some late developers. The blackbird has started early this year.

James Grieve ripens in September. It’s listed as a dessert apple, but used for cooking in July and August.

It was first recorded in 1893 by Dickson’s Nursery, Edinburgh, where James Grieve was manager. He raised it from a seedling, but there was uncertainty over the parent plant – Potts Seedling or Cox’s Orange Pippin.

The former was introduced by Samuel Potts, of Ashton-under-Lyme, in 1849. The latter was raised by Richard Cox, of Buckinghamshire, circa 1825.

The first taste of our crop comes in late September and leaves no doubt in my mind about which is the parent.

You’ll see apples at the local show and wonder why one exhibit is better than the other. Is it the size, ripeness, colour, condition or uniformity? It’s a combination of these.

Cooking apples are expected to be large, shapely and solid, with clear, unblemished skins and colour characteristic of the variety. Dessert types should display similar attributes, size being the exception. Fruits of circa 7.5cm diameter are best.

If you intend to exhibit apples of either class there are a further two key points to remember – the stalks must be intact and the eyes undamaged.