There have been apples growing in Ireland for at least 3000 years.
St Patrick himself is said to have planted a number of apple trees including one at a settlement near the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland.
The Armagh Bramley apple is a world famous iconic variety of the fruit and has been conferred PGI (place of geographic interest) status since 2012. At this time of year I get nostalgic for the kind of apples we ducked in buckets for - knobbly, misshapen but mouth wateringly tasty!
Apart from the Bramley, it’s very hard to find locally grown apples outside the Orchard County. Supermarkets stock easily grown, uniform shaped, shiny polished orbs in favour of heritage produce.
In the UK we import about 70% of the apples consumed each year and largely ignore the wide variation of fruit grown locally.
When an apple has been caressed by soft rain, whipped by wind and warmed by the sun, you’ll taste and feel that in every bite. Consider then that we favour fruit that’s been gas flushed, stored in a chiller for 18 months and then shipped over here from the other side of the globe.
When you take a thin slice of an Armagh Bramley apple and taste the sharp, sparkly crunch, you can feel each drop of rain and lash of wind its experienced. When its been lightly stewed and enveloped in crisp pastry its a gastronomic experience of our unique history.
The week’s recipes celebrate the versatility of apples in sweet and savoury forms. Ginger, spice and apples are delicious especially at this time of year.
A sticky treacle based cake with grated apple is topped with cider candied fruit and a cream packed with stewed Bramley.
Pork and apple have a natural affinity and there’s no shortage of good local butchers expertly curing their own bacon chops. In this week’s recipe they’re glazed with cider and served with a traditional apple sauce pepped up with the addition of smoked Abernethy Butter.
Borough Market in London are celebrating Apple Day tomorrow and are offering an apple amnesty. People can swap their every day apples in favour of varieties like the wonderfully named Golden Russet of Western New York, Ribston Pippin and Oaken Pin.
When we hunt out, buy and consume rare apple varieties, it ensures that growers will continue to cultivate them.
Martin Luther once said: “Even if I knew tomorrow that the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
It’s a sentiment that continues to bear fruit.