sussex varieties of apples

Apple Course with Plumpton Supported Interns

On a sunny day in early October, a group of 13 Supported Interns from Plumpton College came along to Ringmer Community Orchard, where Peter May, Stephan Gehrels (from Brighton Permaculture Trust) and facilitator Mark Gilbert greeted them and put on a day of learning about apples; picking them, grading them and weighing them. The group worked very hard and managed to pick lots of apples, mostly Red Falstaff with some (green) Edward VII. They also tasted some juice from the Fruit Factory at Stanmer Park.

Here are some photos (taken by Mark Gilbert):

One week later, the same group went to the Fruit Factory at Stanmer Park where Stephan of Brighton Permaculture Trust showed them how to wash the apples, cut out the rotten bits, then crush them in the macerator, put the pulp in the hydropress, and press the pulp into gallons of lovely raw juice.

The group then tasted it, poured some into glass bottles and some into plastic containers. The glass bottles went on to be pasteurised, the group could take the raw juice containers away, one each, to drink (within three days).

A passer-by came over to buy some raw juice for her grandson, which was fun.

Here are some photos of the day (taken by Emma Chaplin):

In the afternoon, after a lunch break, Bryn from Brighton Permaculture Trust (BPT) joined the group to give a tour of the orchards at Stanmer. He talked about how orchards were planted in order to produce food and drink, for people to enjoy and learn in, to support wildlife, and to provide blossom for bees to produce honey. He showed us the bee hives.

He explained that BPT help schools and communities to plant orchards. Each orchard will feed three or four generations of people because apple trees can last to be over 100 years old. Trees get less productive as they get old. Pruning helps refresh growth. Sometimes older branches fall off and leave holes. These are good for insects and birds. Blue tits and great tits love them, and they also eat green caterpillars. 

The orchard we first looked at holds the national collection of Sussex apple trees, and each had a beautiful ceramic name label, made by Anne-Marie Bur.

We looked at the moss and lichen -  Bryn said that there are 60 species at Stanmer - and told us that lichen is an algae and a fungi living together. 

Members of the group asked lots of questions as we walked around. Bryn asked us to think about why trees produce fruit in the first place - and what we concluded, was that it means the tree spreads its seeds - after the apples are eaten. These happened by means of horses, pigs and bears in Kazakhstan, where apple trees originated. 

We looked at some Golden pippin apples. It's thought the Romans might have eaten apples similar to these. The Romans were skilled at grafting, and we know they cultivated orchards. Surviving Roman mosaics certainly depict apples.

Bryn showed us the Sussex collection, which has a row of trees planted at an angle so that they stay small - also, Bryn explained - branches trained to grow sideways produce more fruit. 

We looked at the Knobby russet - which tastes nice but has rough skin, like a toad.

Bryn showed us a large lump at root of tree which he told us had come from the grafting process. 

We discussed why there are so many types of apples, and we thought it was because they all taste different, their ripening times vary, and each has adapted to grow in a particular place. 

We talked about the Great Storm of 1987 and the fact that it led to a lot of damaged and destroyed trees in Stanmer.

After this really interesting walk and talk, the group headed back to the Fruit Factory, where Stephan had finished pasteurising the juice. The bottles were warm but ready for the group to take back to their base at the Linklater, where they can design their own labels. These they will show Huw at the Elephant and Castle pub, the last part of the apple juice project between Flourish and Plumpton. Then their juice bottles can be sold towards a charity of the students' choice. Here is a link to the work done by last year's students.

Thanks to Stephan, Bryn, Peter and Mark for all their hard work - and thanks to the interns for all of theirs too.

Emma Chaplin, Flourish Project Manager

Peter May's Guide to apples.. and more!

1. Some information about the apple varieties we grow at Ringmer Community Orchard  Ringmer Community Orchard

ADAMS PEARMAIN

1826 The origin of the apple is Herefordshire or possibly Norfolk. Its first name was “Hanging Pearmain” because it stays or hangs on the tree for a long time without dropping off.  The apple was later renamed Adam’s Pearmain after Robert Adam an apple enthusiast.

Rich, aromatic nutty flavour.  Orange red colour with greenish, yellow and gold.  The tree is scab (a fungal disease) resistant and tends to fruit one year with few apple the next.

ASHMEAD’S KERNEL

First grown by William Ashmead who lived in Gloucester. A vigorously growing variety that needs lots of space. The apple has a strong sweet-sharp flavour. Greenish-yellow fruit with some russeting.

EDWARD VII  

1902 Rowe’s Nursery Worcester. This is a very late flowering cooking apple with a green skin that becomes more yellow as it ripens. Named after the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.

LORD LAMBOURNE

1907 raised by Laxton Brothers of Bedford. The fruit is sweet and jucy with a slight strawberry flavour and some acidity.  Bright red skin with stripes over greenish-yellow background.  The skin becomes greasy as it stores

Orleans Reinnette

ORLEANS REINETTE

Probably originated in France and first described by a Mr Knopp 1776.  The fruit has an orange red and gold colours with an aromatic, nutty sweet taste.

RIBSTON PIPPIN

First grown at Ribston Hall in Yorkshire from a pip brought over from Normandy in about 1688. Intense, rich, aromatic flavour.  Brownish orange flush and red stripes over yellow green.

 

 2. A Guide to Apple Picking, Grading and Storage

 Different apple varieties ripen over a long period from August to October.  You will know when the apple is ripe because it can easily be picked from the tree by holding the apple gently and giving it a slight twist. Other signs of ripeness are the fruit developing bright colours and the pips turning from white to brown.  Sometimes you have to pick the fruit early when birds start to peck the fruit.

Apples need to be picked with care with the stalk intact because damaged or bruised fruit does not store well.  Also customers will not want to buy bruised fruit.

the apples should gently be placed in the picking container and then when the container is full, carefully emptied into the grading bins.

The grades are:

Grade 1 Largest fruit without any blemishes or spots.

Grade 2 Medium sized fruit with occasional marks

Grade 3 Juicing grade fruit. Small and marked fruit

in modern orchards there are machines which measure, grade and wash each size of fruit automatically.

Once graded the apple bins should be clearly labelled with the variety and grade, then moved to the apple store.  At Ringmer this is a building in the coolest part of the orchard.  A cool temperature helps to slow down the ripening of the fruit and allows it to be stored for several months.  Some varieties will store longer than others. Edward V11 will store till January while Orleans Reinette quickly becomes soft.

Modern orchards have very sophisticated apple stores which allow fruit to be kept for nine months.  This is achieved by keeping the fruit at a low temperature and then reducing the amount of oxygen in the store which slows down ripening.

More information about Ringmer Community Orchard