An Enigmatic Apple

This apple tree is a bit of a curiosity. [Update: mystery solved – see end of post]

The label from the nursery said “Discovery”. I don’t think so! Discovery is an early-season apple, ready to eat in July or August and with a distinct red blush (see here for comparison). Whereas this one is distinctly unripe and bright green in late August. Hmm. It looks a bit Granny-Smithish to me.

Another odd thing is the way it came to me. It was sent by accident along with several other fruit trees which were supposed to go to someone else. When I informed the nursery of their mistake they promptly sent me the correct trees, but kindly let me keep the mistaken order.

In keeping with this tree’s enigmatic status I decided to train it into an unusual form…

Ladder Form

The tree was supplied as a 2-year-old double cordon. But the two uprights of the ‘Y’ were an unnecessarily long way apart. So as I trained it up the fence I filled in the central space with alternate horizontal branches, creating a ladder shape (left). As its only a few years old the branches are still very thin, so in the photos below the form is not very distinct yet. But over the next few years the permanent framework will thicken enhancing its striking form.

The structure is clearest in the winter or spring, as above.

Here it is in late summer 2012.

Update: October 2012

During september the apples changed colour – clearly they are not Granny Smiths as I suggested above… interesting. I decided to get some help identifying them, so…

Last week I went to ‘Apple Affair’ at West Dean Gardens, their annual apple extravaganza where expert apple growers display hundreds of different varieties. Two veterans provide a free apple identification service – the main reason I had gone! What was so impressive is that when I showed them one of my enigmatic apples they were pretty sure they knew what it was a t first sight! Before they revealed what they proceeded to poke and prod it – first they cut it in half, briefly examining the core in cross-section – each apple variety has a distinct star-pattern made by its seeds. Sage nodding…  They then gave it a good sniff, looking at each other – yes, it had the tang of its daughter the famous Coxes Orange Pippin. I was eager to know what it was, but they were not finished yet – they cut a slice and tasted it, frowning disapprovingly – it wasn’t at its peak of perfection! I’d picked it too early. A bit unfair really as I’d brought it for identification not for eating!

So what is it? Well, it’s a Ribston Pippin don’t you know? Apparently, an 18th century variety from Yorkshire which is best kept for a month before eating. Interesting eh?

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