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Sunday, 2 November 2014

Ted keeps the doctor away



Weird fact ... today's 7,500 types of apple have almost double the number of genomes we humans do!! If you ate an apple a day it would take you 20 years to eat one of each type available in the world .. and we know exactly where they originated - in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang, China. Which means it’s not so hard to understand why 50% of the 69 million tons of apples grown annually are grown in China.  In second place … the USA, so no surprises there I guess (Johnny Appleseed, Mom's apple pie, and all that) but, the next in line are a bit surprising (to me anyway) Turkey, Italy, India, and then Poland. The UK doesn't even figure on the global apple growing nations top 10 radar, and yet apples are a huge part of the culture.

The less attractive ones are made into cider, which is quintessentially Somerset and the "Darling Buds of May". The tastier ones get eaten fresh and preserved in many forms, thrown at politicians as a mark of disenchantment, and you can be even be rather seriously insulted by being called a “rotten apple”.

October 26th was “apple day” so I headed down to Borough Market where they promised to have loads and loads of apples joining in the fun. The one they shouted loudest about is Britain’s oldest known apple “Court Pendu Plat”.  Despite its French sounding name and claims, the chances are it got here via the supply cart of some Roman army cook, and then the "spat out pips" grew seedlings that appreciated having slightly cooler and damper feet and so settled into the English countryside.

It was an Elizabethan favourite, despite being rather dull looking and kind of squashed in shape (this isn't it pictured btw cos I went for attractive). They called it the “wise apple”. Reason … simple. It was very late to blossom so it usually survived even the very late frosts that damaged many of the other more attractive, versatile, and higher cropping varieties. 

Ironically, in the terrible frosts and winters of 1997/1998 that destroyed many apple orchards, it was the very tiny numbers of heritage apples, often growing unnoticed in ordinary back gardens, that toughed it out. Nowadays, like much of the other quickly disappearing heritage flora and fauna, they are the subject of quiet saviour campaigns across the UK and hooray to that I say!! 

6 comments:

Mike @ A Bit About Britain said...

Fascinating stuff - good piece!

Stefan Jansson said...

Very informative.

All I hear is people complaining about the fact that their old favorite apple types are gone.

Sharon Anck said...

I had no idea there were that many varieties of apples.

Babzy said...

I didn't know there were an apple day but it's worthit :)

William Kendall said...

My cousin has carried on the orchard his parents started. He grows quite a variety.

Jack said...

Ted, I do admire the research that you do for your weekly food posts. I like apples a lot, so today's post has a special appeal.

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