English Apples in 1829

THE APPLE- Pyrus Malus
...........(from "A Description and History of Vegetable Substances used in The Arts and Domestic Economy, pub. Charles Knight, London, 1829.)

The apple is distinguished as the fruit of the colder climates. It is at once the most brisk and refreshing of any of the common hardy orchard fruits. It remains the longest in season, is used in the greatest number of ways, and, therefore, is the most generally cultivated. The stone fruits of the English orchard keep only for a few days, unless they are preserved; and in this state they lose that natural flavour on which their value chiefly depends. Many of the finer pears keep only for a short time, when they become vapid and flat: but there are apples of very rich and vinous flavour, which, with care, can be preserved till the early sorts of the succeeding season come in to supply their place.

The useful qualities of the apple have extended its cultivation throughout Europe, as far as 60 degrees North. It has been observed that the commoner fruit-trees, such as apples, pears, cherries, and apricots, grow in the open air, wherever oaks thrive. As we proceed further north, the apple is scarcely known. The people of Lapland showed Linnaus (Tour in Lapland, vol. i, p.23) what they called an apple-tree, which, they said, bore no fruit, because it had been cursed by a beggar-woman, to whom the owner of the tree had refused some of its produce. The naturalist found that it was the common elm, a tree also rare in that severe climate.

The cultivated apple was probably scarce in Rome, in the time of Pliny; for he states that there were some apple-trees in the village near the city which yielded more profit than a small farm. It is remarkable that Moses, in his directions to the Israelites when they "shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food" (Leviticus,c. xix, v.23) makes no mention of the art of grafting. Hesiod and Homer , in like manner, have no allusion to a practice which would naturally have formed part of their subject had it existed when they wrote. Pliny mentions apple-trees "that will honour the first grafters for ever", and this enthusiastic sort of praise at any rate belongs to the infancy of an art, when mankind are first conscious if its blessings, and therefore not disposed to undervalue them through their familiarity.

The varieties at present known are considerably more than a thousand. Of late these varieties have been increased in a remarkable manner, by the application of the pollen of one sort to the blossom of another.

Many of the better sorts of English apples were probably introduced into this country from the continent. The greater part of our names of apples are French, either pure or corrupted. Those varieties which had been celebrated abroad were spread through the kingdom by their cultivation in the gardens of the religious house; and many of these fine old sorts still exist. Thus the Nonpareil, according to the old herbalists, was brought from France by a Jesuit in the time of Queen Mary, and first planted in the gardens of Oxfordshire. The Oslin, or Arbroath Pippin, an ancient Scottish variety, was either introduced or extensively cultivated by the monks of the Abbey of Arbroathwick. On the other hand, the celebrated Golden pippin has been considered as the native growth of England; and noted as such by French and Dutch writers. It is described by Duhamel under the name of "Pomme d'Or Reinette d'Angleterre". The same authority on fruit trees also mentions the "Grosse Reinette d'Angleterre". The more delicate apples for the table, such as the pippins, were probably very little known here till the latter part of the sixteenth century. Fuller states that one Leonard Marschal, in the sixteenth year of the reign of Henvy VIII, brought pippins from over sea, and planted them at Plumstead in Sussex. Pippins are so called because the trees were raised from the pips, or seeds, and bore the apples which gave them celebrity, without grafting.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity Website

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