Sunday, April 05, 2009
The Head Gardener and I had a very pleasant afternoon recently, walking through a well-established orchard that friends have planted on their lifestyle block on the outskirts of a Wairarapa town, crammed with apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, quinces, feijoas…. almost any hardy fruit you care to name, including more unusual varieties, such as medlars. It was a slightly humbling experience to walk among the many different apple varieties, choosing fruit to sample from those later fruiting types.
Any what types! Fruit glorying in a range of seemingly eccentric names – Kentish Fillbasket, Peasgood Nonesuch, and Merton Russett – and displaying a great variety of colours, sizes and – as we found out – flavours.
Not everyone is going to have the space and the inclination to grow such a wide range of apples but most gardens can fit in one or two varieties, either on dwarfing rootstock, or as espaliers.
I am a great fan of the Greytown fruit breeder James Hutton Kidd, who was breeding apples a century ago. His ‘Gala’ variety is in the background of most recent New Zealand varieties, so his work has had huge influence of the apples we export.
Among his once-popular types are a few that fell out of favour for a while, but are staging a comeback. ‘Kidd’s Orange Red’ is a reliable late-season fruiting variety, similar to Cox’s Orange Pippin, with a rich, aromatic taste with a good balance between the tart and sweet flavours.
‘Freyberg’ is a greenish-yellow fruit with hints of russetting, so it does not look the shiny red apples we have come to expect in supermarkets. But the fruit has a much more complex flavour than modern types, with nuttiness combined with sweetness. It ripens in the mid season but will keep on the tree developing further complexities of flavour.
“Laxton’s Fortune’ is a variety bred in England in 1904, but a famous nursery family. It has lovely colour, with red stripes over green/yellow skin with a little russetting sometimes. It has a lovely sweet flavour, again more complex the later it is picked.
‘Sir Prize’ has yellow green skin and tender flesh. It is an excellent keeping, late fruiting, ‘Golden Delicious’ type. It was one we were able to pick from the orchard, and both enjoyed eating.
If you want to keep yourself even healthier than the traditional “apple a day” will, try another surprise, ‘Monty’s Surprise’, a good crisp, late-ripening apple that is shiny red over light green. It has been shown to have enormous potential for prevention of disease, and is regarded as the best anti-cancer apple in the world. It was found as a wild seedling in the Manawatu, but is now available throughout New Zealand.