I’d like to be able to enjoy home-grown apples in winter, what’s the best way of storing them, and do some varieties keep better than others?
The later apple varieties, which tend to ripen from late September through to late October, store well and storage improves the flavour. The go-to cooker is still ‘Bramley Seedling’, which will keep until March. It’s a vigorous triploid tree, grafted on to various rootstocks to limit size and spread, and it produces little or no pollen so it can’t cross-pollinate other apple varieties. It crops generously, early in its life, although it does have a biennial tendency to crop heavily every other year. I grow a dual purpose cooker-eater called ‘Blenheim Orange’ but this will take seven years to crop properly. It stores until December and isn’t commercially available.
When it comes to eating apples I’d recommend ‘Herefordshire Russet’, a new, aromatic russet that’s picked in September and can be eaten from October until January. ‘Charles Ross', a midseason, sweet, red-flushed dual-purpose apple, will store until December. 'Kidd's Orange', a red, dessert apple that’s sweeter than a Cox, can be eaten between November and January. 'Laxton Superb', a dessert apple with an aromatic Cox flavour, stores until January.
Use a specialist nursery, such as Keepers Nursery (www.keepers-nursery.co.uk/ 01622 326465) and take their advice on varieties and rootstocks. Don’t buy a maiden, unless you know how to train it. Go for a two-year old tree and be aware of pollination groups because you want varieties to overlap and cross-pollinate each other.
A ripe fruit comes away when it’s twisted in your hand. Pick on a dry day and store somewhere cool and frost-free. An apple a day really does keep my doctor at bay!
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