‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ was an adage often used when I was growing up. The apple is known to be a source of vitamin C, flavonoids and fibre which may be contributors to
the health-giving properties reflected in the saying above. Fermentation, to produce cider, preserves most of the vitamin C and also contributes vitamin B12.
The apple as we now know it probably arose many thousands of years ago in a region of central Asia, some of which we know today as Kazakhstan; wild fruits gathered in that area bear considerable resemblance to many of the cultivated varieties currently available.
The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Farm, Kent www.BrogdaleCollections.org numbers 2,200 apple varieties in its collection from around the world. Yet there are probably only 50 varieties in commercial production and I expect many of us would be stretched to name more than 10 that they have come across as readily available in our supermarkets. This is a pity, because we are missing out on a vast range of flavours and textures that could be available to us were it not for commercial considerations that militate against their large scale production.
For the widest choice and to obtain an apple that we really enjoy, we can grow our own. Apple trees nowadays come in a range of shapes and sizes and many people will have room for one (or perhaps two for pollination reasons) in their garden. Trees can be bought from garden centres or preferably specialist fruit tree nurseries, with most offering an on-line service.
How to choose an apple tree is complex. Size of tree, season, how long the apple will store and when it flowers are all considerations, but most nurseries will assist with your choice. Some good advice can be found on the Internet, search ‘choosing apple trees’. The author is also happy to offer advice.
The overriding consideration however will be flavour and texture and this is a very personal choice. Try to form your preferences by tasting varieties that are recommended by friends, neighbours, family, nursery catalogues or other reading sources. To obtain these, you may have to go to apple tasting days or visit orchard outlets or farmers markets.
Finally, you could enter the whole new fun world of producing a new tree yourself by learning to graft; for example see www.WinterbourneBarn.org.uk/events