An Apple a Day….

It was Apple Day at Ripon’s Walled Garden on Saturday.  We went along.

For me, it was a chance to revisit my childhood. Every Saturday, I’d go shopping with my mother to the Tachbrook Street Market.  My favourite stall was the greengrocer’s.  I’d try to add to my collection of prettily-decorated tissues used by the citrus fruit growers to wrap their produce.  I’d wonder at expensive exotica such as lychees or passion fruit.  But really, we’d come to buy.

And my mother taught me that apples aren’t simply apples.  There was something new to look forward to every month in autumn.  The eagerly anticipated first apple of all – the bright red Discovery, quickly followed by Beauty of Bath.  The Cox’s Orange Pippin of course, which we had to shake: it wasn’t ripe unless the pips rattled.  Blenheim Orange Laxton’s SupremeLaxton’s Superb. Worcester PearmainCharles RossJames Grieve. Egremont Russet, which I always associated with Bonfire Night, but which nowadays is already in the shops. Ribston PippinEllison’s Orange.  I learnt to love them all: some sharp and juicy; others more mellow, slightly less crisp; white-fleshed; creamy-fleshed; small; large; knobbly; oval; round – such variety.

Many of these have all but disappeared from the shops.  It’s all about large, white-fleshed, crisp apples.  Jazz, Pink Lady, Granny Smith – even Cox all seem much of a muchness. And half the time, when apple season is at its peak in England, they aren’t even from the UK.  Cookers these days are Bramley Seedlings.  Excellent of course, but where are the Lord Derbys, the Newton Wonders, the Grenadiers?

In places like Ripon’s Walled Garden, that’s where.  Look at my Rogue’s Gallery of all the varieties they still grow.

This display below piqued my interest.  I recently read Tracey Chevalier’s At the Edge of the Orchard, a partly-true story which begins in Ohio in Pioneering days.  A bit-part in the tale is played by an apple variety, Pitmaston Pineapple, that had been carefully brought over from Herefordshire. I’d never preciously heard of them, but … they’re still grown in Ripon.  I tasted one.  The so-called pineapple taste eluded me … but I was still glad to have eaten a little bit of history.


Ripon Walled Garden is Ripon’s best kept secret.  It’s a  a charity supporting young people and adults with learning difficulties to learn horticultural and catering skills in a sheltered environment.  Come here for a delectable tea-and-cake moment or a light meal, made using their fresh garden produce: sit at a table in the shade of the old apple trees in the well-tended and colourful garden. You’ll go home refreshed and happy.

51 thoughts on “An Apple a Day….”

  1. This is a bit like a trip ‘down memory lane’ 🙂 Some of those old names I now recall now that you have listed them. Sadly so many apples are rather tasteless, and here in France I really struggle to get a good cooking apple. I can’t have everything I suppose! Apples are available all year round and I am sure that they must have been stored for ages, possibly why they are so bland! How lucky you are to find such a collection so close to you.

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  2. This makes my heart sing! I go looking, every autumn, for oddball, old-fashioned apples–I love the variety, the different looks and tastes, and the names. Those wonderful names! I need to read that Chevalier book. And you should look for Michael Pollan’s “Botany of Desire.” It has an excellent chapter on apples!


  3. Wonderful stuff with illustrations to match! I’m going to forward it to a friend who’s also into apple varieties in a big way. I’d never heard of Pilmaston Pineapple either, but Tracy Chevalier is known for her research.

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  4. Love those displays of apples.
    My parents had a greengrocer’s shop and I too loved the apples.
    We’re in Spain just now but still missing our Wednesday coffee at the walled garden, and I believe there’s some of our art being displayed too, raising funds for a new minibus xx

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  5. How lovely! I mourn those wonderful varieties – gone from our shops. Our tiny ‘orchard’ has 5 varieties of traditional apples which apparently thrive in Cornish conditions. I was delighted when one of the saplings produced two apples this year. The birds feasted before I reached them but I am encouraged. And you’ve remined me – must look out for the Chevalier book 🙂


  6. That’s a lovely selection of apples. I had a Blenheim Orange in my old garden. I hope the new people didn’t chop it down. My great-grandfather had a small orchard within the city limits of St Albans, needless to say it’s now under a mini housing estate. Great to see Ripon’s Walled Garden bucking the development trend.

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    1. Ah, well, they have the land on which the Bishop formerly had his palace, so I hope it may be protected in some way. I hope your new owners haven’t chopped such a lovely tree. I know when we moved from Sheffield, the new owners chopped down the pear tree almost before they’d emptied their boxes. I was incandescent. I nearly went and removed them from the house by force.


  7. What a refreshing post! Good to know so many varieties are still grown and valued – too bad about the homogenising trends that deprive most of us such diversity and unique scents, colours and flavours and the heirloom apples that wonderfully connect us to rich regional histories.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. beautiful post – thank you – I’ve enjoyed a BOSCOP apple during our morning break (choral week in the Swiss mountains) – such a perky fresh, slightly sour but juicy taste – one nearly had forgotten how GOOD an apple could taste….. When I lived in UK I learned to enjoy the Bramleys, but also here in CH, so many old sorts and varieties had to yield to uniform size and taste. So sad!

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  9. I love apples! I love picking them, I love eating them, and I love to cook and bake with them. Last month I froze twenty pints of homemade applesauce…always makes the winter feel warmer and more enjoyable. And my kids love to come home and eat it at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love apples!

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  10. I keep meaning to go to our local apple day but either forget or have something else on the same day. One day I’ll manage it – I hope! Isn’t it wonderful that Ripon not only has a gorgeous-looking walled garden but provides employment there for people with learning difficulties?
    One of my favourite apples is Egremont Russet! I also love an over-ripe and wrinkled Cox’s Orange Pippin (I have a sweet tooth!). We have a Norfolk Biffin apple-tree in our garden the apples of which start out as cookers and sweeten with storing. They have a slightly spicy taste and are good for drying too.

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  11. Like you I’m not a fan of French apples and disappointingly we’re in an prime Golden Delicious growing area. Whoever heard of growing apples under cover? However I was heartened at our recent mushroom fête when there was a large selection of Corrèzian heritage apples. I’m on the search for trees now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope you have success. To be fair, I do’t think the GDs they sell in France are quite as bad as the ones they ship over to England. But heritage apples is the way to go, I’m sure


  12. Thanks for the memories. I grew up on an Australian apple orchard in the 50’s. we grew Jonathon, crisp and juicy. Delicious, sweet and floury. Gravenstein, Granny Smith, a great cooker and eater and to my mind 2nd to Jonathons. At the time Cox’s Orange Pippin and Sturmer we’re fading in popularity. At that time being post war our region, the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria exported to England. These days I don’t even eat an apple that isn’t straight from the tree. I guess I was spoilt.


    1. Spoilt is good in this case! Gravensteins I don’t know, and I was surprised to find recently that Granny Smiths aren’t grown in the UK. It’s great that everywhere has its own special, and different, varieties.

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