The gardeners of The Newt in Somerset share their pick of the best eating apples to grow and enjoy in your own garden.
In the space of a few years, The Parabola at The Newt in Somerset has become one of the nation’s finest apple-growing spots.
‘Every inch of its inner walls is now covered in apple trees, tightly pruned and meticulously trained,’ wrote Charles Quest-Ritson after a recent visit for Country Life.
‘There are 330 cultivars, mainly old British varieties, but also some of the best French apples and a total of 689 trees,’ he wrote, calling the place ‘a living dictionary of pomological expertise’ that’s both a treat for the eyes and the taste buds.
The display of meticulously labelled, trained and cared-for apples is a remarkable sight,’ added Charles.
‘They fruit intensively and visitors marvel that so many can be grown so closely to each other. The temptation to pick is irresistible and, fortunately, “we like it when our visitors taste our apples,” says head gardener Stephen Herrington, who manages a team of some 40 gardeners, groundsmen, woodsmen and estate workers. And there is no better way to learn about apples than by tasting them — and here are five of the team’s absolute favourites from among the many varieties.
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1. ‘Ananas Reinette’
Intense sweet, sharp flavour, developing its pineapple taste late in the season. Superb when kept until December. Small, round, golden fruit with russet freckles. Crisp and with juicy yellow-white flesh. A distinct taste, very fragrant.
2. Reine des Reinettes
Known in England as ‘King of the Pippins’. At the National Apple Congress in London in 1883, with 10,000 apples from 230 exhibitors, this was voted the best of all eaters. In a good year, still unbeatable. Rich, aromatic, sweet, but well-acidulated, with a hint of bitter almonds.
3. Merton Russet
A mid-winter dessert apple, picking in October, ripening in November and usually keeping until January/February. The sharp flavour mellows to become rich and aromatic by Christmas, but keeps its crisp texture and juiciness. A good cropper, too.
4. Ashmead’s Kernel
The English connoisseur’s favourite, dull and dry when picked in September, but firm, sweet, juicy and intensely aromatic by mid November onwards and keeping well until March. A good, regular cropper with, incidentally, very pretty flowers.
5. Devonshire Quarrenden
A pretty apple, not large, but invaluable as one of the first to fruit, typically late in August. Brisk, juicy and vinous — some say they can pick up a hint of strawberries — but very refreshing. Crisp at first, but soon turning soft, so best eaten straight from the tree (it drops its apples when they are ripe).
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